County committed to integrating mental health and addiction treatment with housing services
In one year, Clackamas County has seen a 31% decrease in homelessness, according to the just-released annual Point in Time count of people experiencing homelessness.
“Let’s savor this for a moment,” said Board of County Commissioners Chair Tootie Smith in a commission meeting on May 9. “I’m so thankful to our staff doing the extraordinary work to get us to this place; and we want to keep going. This Board is dedicated to staffing addiction treatment and mental health options, and we’ll put our resources behind these efforts. We also need to get rent assistance out there before people lose their housing."
The full Board joined Chair Smith in celebrating the headway on addressing homelessness, commending the county’s partners for their dedication, and committing to continued action. The commission praised county staff and partners for serving over 6,500 people in 2022 through homeless prevention and housing programs, while recognizing the county must remain dedicated to doing the work to end homelessness. Deputy Director of Housing and Community Development Vahid Brown agreed that 410 people experiencing homelessness in the county is still too many.
“We’re making a significant difference in one of the most difficult problems,” Brown said. “It means that what we’re doing is working. This comes down to the dedication of staff, our private and nonprofit community partners, and law enforcement. We’re making a difference for hundreds of households of extremely vulnerable people and for the wider community that cares deeply about this problem. We are literally saving lives."
Brown touted the effectiveness of the county’s Built for Zero initiative, in which outreach workers track people experiencing homelessness by name, build trust with people and connect them with housing.
“Built for Zero allows us to track inflows and outflows to and from homelessness," Brown said. "The number of people exiting homelessness needs to be greater than the number entering, and if it is, we will continue to be on the right track. And we need a robust suite of tools to help people exit, including addiction and recovery services.”
Brown discussed multiple types of outreach that county workers engage in, including behavioral health drug and alcohol counselors who do outreach alongside law enforcement through the LEAD program, as well as medically-focused outreach in coordination with Providence Health.