Rural areas prioritized
Clackamas County and nonprofit partners have exceeded the county’s rehousing goal in nine months utilizing Oregon state homeless emergency order funds. Clackamas County, with a goal to rehouse 170 households, enrolled a total of 262 households in the program. The county prioritized this funding for rural areas, where services for people experiencing homelessness have historically been extremely limited.
“We have surpassed our rehousing goals through the collaboration of many partners,” said Clackamas County Board Chair Tootie Smith. “Clackamas County is unique because we have both urban and rural areas, and we can’t leave anyone out. This new funding allows us to reach into communities that otherwise might not have had access to programs,” said Smith.
Rural and urban homeless service organizations in Clackamas County are applauding the state emergency funding as a “game changer,” according to Melissa Erlbaum, executive director of Clackamas Women’s Services, which received emergency funding. Erlbaum shared these dollars allow people who are newly facing homelessness to move back into housing quickly rather than languishing on a waitlist. Erlbaum stressed the impact this funding has made for homeless children and people fleeing domestic violence and trafficking. “It’s been a game changer for how we can address homelessness due to abuse,” Erlbaum says. The immediate availability of an apartment “has made the difference in people choosing to stay in an unsafe situation or leaving.”
State emergency funding has helped build a strong homeless services network in rural Clackamas County. “There is a lot of homelessness in our rural areas,” says Valerie Salazar, housing and homeless services director for nonprofit AntFarm. “With outreach funding, we are partnering with neighbors, businesses, churches, elected leaders and first responders to move people from camps into housing. We are all working together now,” says Salazar.
Clackamas County also prevented evictions for 381 households and conducted homeless outreach in rural areas using state emergency funding. Overall in 2023, Clackamas County served more than 9500 people in our affordable housing and homeless services programs using local, state and federal funding sources.
Governor Tina Kotek declared a statewide homeless state of emergency through Executive Order 23-02 on January 10, 2023, and granted funds to counties to address the emergency on March 31, 2023. Clackamas County received $5.415 million for rapid rehousing and outreach and $1.883 million for eviction prevention. Governor Kotek extended the emergency order yesterday in order to maintain the good work that jurisdictions started in 2023, Kotek said.