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County addresses housing need with rent assistance, homeless outreach and new affordable homes

We’ve heard from Clackamas County residents that homelessness and poverty are the most important issues facing our county today. Clackamas County shares this concern, and in January, county commissioners renewed their commitment to address homelessness. Here’s a look at how the county is making great strides to fulfill this commitment.

Helen Johnson sitting on a bench in front of Fuller Station

Having an apartment that she can afford allows Helen to give back and help others.

Preventing homelessness through rent assistance, eviction prevention, and supportive housing

Ensuring county residents can afford and stay in their housing is key to preventing homelessness. Housing is considered affordable if housing costs take up no more than 30 percent of a household’s income.

In Clackamas County, at least 52 percent of all renters are cost burdened, paying more than 30 percent of their income to housing. And 26 percent of all renters in the county pay more than 50 percent of their income to housing. That means that working households often forego basic necessities like medical treatment and groceries to afford rent. And record-low vacancy rates of 4 percent put many families on the edge — just one catastrophe away from becoming homeless.

To combat these challenges, the county has prioritized new resources for rent assistance, eviction prevention, and supportive housing. County accomplishments include:

Accomplishments include:

  • Serving over 6,500 in our housing and homeless services programs in 2022 
  • Enabling 2,638 people to retain their housing through homelessness prevention and rent assistance in the last two years 
  • Moving 585 households from homelessness to permanent housing in the last two years

A single parent and young child are one of the families that county staff have been privileged to work with to prevent eviction. You can read their story.

Aerial photo of the Good Shepherd Village construction site

A project of Catholic Charities of Oregon, Good Shepherd Village will open its doors to 143 households this summer. Thirty-five of these apartments are reserved for people leaving homelessness, including homeless veterans.

Building 1,508 new affordable homes and counting

Fuller Station in northern Clackamas County is one newly built affordable housing property that helps meet the housing needs of our residents. Opened in September 2022, Fuller Station provides 100 apartments that are affordable for lower-income households. Twenty-five of these apartments include social services and are reserved for people who have exited homelessness.

Helen Johnson

Helen Johnson

Helen Johnson, a resident at Fuller Station, is grateful for her new apartment. Johnson is employed as a nursing assistant for people with developmental disabilities — a much-needed but often underpaid field. Before having affordable housing, Johnson lived in a cramped home with extended family. But having her new two-bedroom apartment allows Johnson to fulfill her dream of giving back by becoming a foster parent to youth with disabilities.

“When I come home, I know I’m secure and it’ll always be safe for my foster child,” said Johnson. “Getting behind in bills and rent is a stress that I [no longer] have.”

Las Flores in Oregon City is another new development that helps meet the county’s housing goals. Offering 171 affordable apartments for families, Las Flores started construction in 2022, and residents will move in beginning July 2023. While housing affordability is a major challenge for many Clackamas County residents, including low-income workers, families, and retirees, Las Flores provides hope, with 43 of its apartments dedicated to agricultural workers and nine for households exiting homelessness.

The need for farmworker and workforce housing is dire in Oregon, as the state’s agricultural workers often earn just half the income needed to afford a two– bedroom apartment. Farmworkers and other laborers and service workers and their families are vital to our region’s growth and economic success. We’ve found that providing good, affordable housing is solving the labor shortage for farms, which positively impacts the region’s prices and food supply.

“Oregon City is an agricultural community,” said Ernesto Fonseca, the chief executive officer of county partner Hacienda Community Development Corporation. “Being thankful for the work these farmworkers do is super significant to our mission.”

At Las Flores, 75 percent of the apartments have two, three, or four bedrooms, also making it a solution for families looking for a stable home. When children have adequate and safe housing, they do better in school and are better able to reach their potential. A public park, picnic area, play areas, and gardens will be included, along with community computers and a library. The name Las Flores, meaning “the flowers” in Spanish, speaks to Oregon’s natural landscapes and the promise that the community will be a place where residents will bloom and flourish.

Spurred by Metro Housing Bond dollars, the Housing Authority of Clackamas County has completed or started development on 1,508 new affordable homes and counting since 2020. Other new developments include:

County Commissioner Paul Savas (second from left), along with other state and local officials, broke ground to begin the construction of Marylhurst Commons.

County Commissioner Paul Savas (second from left), along with other state and local officials, broke ground to begin the construction of
Marylhurst Commons.

Built for Zero: New street outreach program

How to participate in ending homelessness

In order to effectively end homelessness, Clackamas County has joined the nationwide Built for Zero movement, an evidence-based methodology that has so far helped 14 U.S. cities and counties virtually eliminate homelessness.

A key part of the Built for Zero implementation in Clackamas County was the launch of our first coordinated homeless outreach program in November 2022. Six organizations are conducting this outreach on a daily basis across the county, offering a variety of outreach and safety services through pop-up and mobile methods and through visiting encampments.

Outreach workers meet with people who are experiencing homelessness, provide essential survival gear and services, and connect them to shelter and permanent housing. During severe weather this year, outreach workers offered life-saving supplies and identified highly vulnerable people for emergency shelter placements.

All outreach workers are trained in Coordinated Housing Access assessments, which are used to create a by-name list of each person experiencing homelessness in the county.

“The by-name list is a critical part of our Built for Zero work,” says County Outreach Coordinator Gelinda Chernault. “We don’t want anyone to only be contacted once or get lost in the system. Through our outreach work, weekly collaboration across agencies, strong data collection, and an updated by-name list, we are now getting to a place where we can build real relationships with every single person experiencing homelessness. When that occurs, we can provide each person the unique support that they need. This program is helping the county make visible progress, and it’s bringing hope to our friends on the street.”

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