On Homelessness: 2019 Point-In-Time Count

Every other year the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) requires communities that receive its funding, which we do here in Multnomah County – to conduct a count of people experiencing homelessness according to its definition (in short, people living on the street, in shelters, or transitional housing). It is not a perfect tool to understand the state of homelessness in our community, but it does generate useful data that we can learn from. The 2019 count was conducted in January and released in early August. You’ll find the report here. We reviewed it and have some thoughts about what it says: 

  • Families are homeless in unique (hard to count) ways. We work with mostly with families, so the fact that homelessness among families with dependent children is down in this year’s count is of course great news. However, the data is limited in a variety of ways, so while we find it useful, we rely more on our day-to-day experience working with families who are either experiencing homelessness or on the verge of it. The demand for our services among those two groups remains very high. The 211 wait list is a fair indicator of need for services among families, and it is hovering around 600 right now. And with families in particular, they tend to double up with friends and family when they are homeless, which makes them very hard to count in a count like this. When a report like this comes out, it’s important to remember how hard it is for so many families to stay afloat with housing costs so high and wages not keeping up. They may not show up in a count like this, but they are struggling.
  • People of Color are over-represented. In many ways this report proves what we know, especially when it comes to the demographics of who is experiencing homelessness in our community. People of Color have been and continue to be over-represented among those experiencing homelessness, for reasons we know all too well: historic (and ongoing) racism, sky-high wealth inequality, long-term barriers to housing, unequal pay, and the list goes on. Many providers, like Human Solutions, are (and have been) very aware of this and, as a result, tailor our programs and staffing to meet the specific needs of marginalized, historically oppressed communities. We’re also focusing on policy change that removes barriers, like updating rental screening barriers and enabling more justice record expungement.
  • What you see on the streets. Those of us working in this area have long known that our community lacks enough permanent supportive housing for people experiencing chronic homelessness, which translates to the many people we all see every day living in places unfit for human habitation. The good news is that voters and our local governments have recently prioritized this type of housing, so in time we think fewer of our neighbors will be unsheltered. This investment comes too late, but we’re hopeful about its impact.
  • Programs are working, but aren’t sufficient. Human Solutions’ programs to help people find housing security are working, but to solve the problem we need more funding to meet the current need (we routinely turn people away for assistance due to insufficient funds) AND we need to stop the inflow of NEW people becoming homeless by addressing the region’s housing affordability crisis.
  • Heartbreak and triumph. On this issue, it’s important to remember that there is both heartbreak AND triumph. What you see everyday as you go about your business may seem only like heartbreak. But in our line of work, we see a lot of triumph, too, where people who are homeless find a path back to housing security, and people who are at risk of homelessness hang onto their housing. Human Solutions’ role is to help folks through crisis moments and, increasingly, to fix the broken systems that send them there in the first place.

This report is both limited in its methodology and scope, but also rich with useful data. If you are interested in getting involved in our work to help people avoid and move past homelessness, please reach out to Christina, our Shelter Donations & Volunteer Coordinator: 503.278.1637 or via email.

July eNews: Community Conversation on Homelessness


I’m really glad that you are part of the Human Solutions family. Every month when I write this update to share, it heartens me to know that you are rooting us on. Our work can be hard, but it is also incredibly rewarding. Thanks for caring.

As usual, we have lots to cover!


First and foremost, I want to invite you to our first Community Conversation on Wednesday evening, August 7th from 6 to 8 PM. Do you have questions and/or thoughts about what’s going on in our community when it comes to homelessness? Let’s talk about them!

As an emergency shelter provider for women and families and an affordable housing developer and operator (among other programs we offer), we have expertise and opinions to share that we think might be relevant. We very much want to hear from you and respond to your questions. Please join us and invite friends who might be interested. Details are on our web page and on Facebook. No RSVP required, just drop in! Stark Street Station, our gracious host in the Mt. Tabor neighborhood, has beer/wine, sweet treats and light dinner fare for purchase (lasagna, pot pies, quiche, etc…). Questions? Contact Lisa Frack, at 503.548.0282 or lfrack@humansolutions.org.


Romero Gonzalez is a single mother of four children and, like many (all?!) mothers, she had a dream for her children to graduate from high school and then college – every one of them. She entered our Alder Family Program* in 2012, and since then her dream has started to come true. Luis, her oldest who is now 18, graduated from high school last year and is currently enrolled at Portland Community College. Luis recently called Human Solutions’ Family Advocate, Yolanda, to thank her for helping him with his Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). He received $3,000; enough to cover his full tuition for fall 2019!

Yolanda writes:

“I am so proud of this kiddo. I remember he wanted to give up because we were having trouble with FAFSA. I encouraged him to not to give up and keep trying. I also encouraged him to talk to his academic advisor at PCC, to ask the staff for help and to guide him with his Federal Student Aid.  Now he is successfully enrolled for classes this fall. This is why I love what I do, because we are here to support the whole family and give the children a chance to grow.”

* The Alder Family Program is an effective program that Human Solutions participates in with several other local providers (Home Forward and Greater Than). Its purpose is to help students who attend Alder Elementary School (in the Reynolds School District) to thrive in school and to help their families maintain stable housing so that students can remain in the same school. Housing instability too often causes kids to switch schools, which can hinder their education.


Our emergency shelter team maintains a Wish List on Amazon to make it super easy for you to contribute just what they need – by literally only lifting a finger! Next time you’re online (oh, you are right now!?!), check out what we are in need of and send us a package! Here’s the link.

Learn more here about Lilac Meadows, our new emergency shelter for families opening this summer.


Despite the unusual and dramatic end to our 2019 state legislative session, a lot of good bills became laws, many related to affordable housing. Human Solutions engages in advocacy related to housing and homelessness through the Oregon Housing Alliance, a statewide organization devoted to affordable housing for all Oregonians. We are grateful to be members of this dedicated group and proud of what we all accomplished together this session. As Alison McIntosh, the group’s terrific leader stated, “…we have helped secure significant resources to create and maintain more affordable homes, to prevent and end homelessness for more Oregonians, and to help people maintain access to affordable homeownership.” Read all the details on their blog.


The Warmth of Other Suns is Isabel Wilkerson’s epic story of America’s Great Migration. Wilkerson devoted 15 years to the research and writing of the book. She interviewed over 1,200 people, unearthed archival works and gathered the voices of the famous and the unknown to tell the epic story of the Great Migration, one of the biggest underreported stories of the 20th Century and one of the largest migrations in American history. The book was named to more than 30 Best of the Year lists, won the National Book Critics Circle Award, among other honors, and made national news when President Obama chose it for summer reading in 2011. In 2012, The New York Times named The Warmth of Other Suns to its list of the best nonfiction books of all time. It is important AND a page turner. We can’t put it down! Grab a copy at the Multnomah County library today!

Thanks, as always, for reading. I am grateful to you for your compassion for those among us in need right now. As the Dalai Lama has said, “Compassion is the radicalism of our time.”

Radically yours,




Andy Miller, Executive Director

PS – You can *always* make a donation to fuel our work – it’s easy to do online: https://ourjustfuture.org/giving/

eNews – June 2019

Hi everyone,

It may not technically be summer yet, but it sure is starting to feel like it! We are busy preparing to open our new emergency shelter for families, Lilac Meadows, in the coming weeks. We can always use extra hands preparing and serving meals (contact Christina to learn more). While shelter is not the solution to homelessness, it is an important part of the puzzle. We pride ourselves on working to support shelter residents with their journey back to housing and economic security.

In other news that we think might interest you:

Our After-School Program Took a Trip to Salem

This spring, our LearnLinks after-school program team took a group of students on a field trip to our state capitol in Salem. The kids learned about their state government, toured the Capitol building and met some legislators. Seeing how and where laws are made – and who makes them – is so important for our future voters and leaders. We need far more voices at the table, and this is one way to open the doors to civic engagement. LearnLinks offers homework help, school-family connection support, outings like this one, summer lunches and more!


Newsflash: Homelessness is Bad for Your Health (and now there’s proof)

We’ve always thought that homelessness is a risk to human health – recent research has now confirmed it. Researchers have been studying the health impacts of homelessness, and the results are clear: people experiencing homelessness have diseases and symptoms that typically afflict people decades older. As cited in the linked article, “although the participants’ average age is 57, they experience strokes, falls, visual impairment and urinary incontinence at rates typical of US residents in their late 70s and 80s.” The research could be an important tool to reframe how funders, providers and governments define and solve the problem. By treating homelessness as a public health issue and a housing/economic stability issue, we believe it will lead to greater urgency and new resources to find real solutions.

You can listen to a great interview with one of the researchers, a Bay Area doctor, here. As he says, “Nothing I have in my black bag improves the health of a homeless person … other than housing.”

Your (Anti-Racism) Summer Reading List

What’s on your summer reading list? May we suggest at least one book from an inspiring and important list? One of Human Solutions’ four Strategic & Equity Plan goals is to be an anti-racist organization. The correlation between racism and housing equity is longstanding and problematic; we cannot have housing equity without addressing racism and how it has and still does impact housing policy and opportunities.

One important path toward becoming anti-racist is to understand systemic racism, our country’s unique brand of it, and to know what being anti-racist means. Not everyone can access in-person trainings on this (though there are local opportunities), but thanks to our terrific public library system, many more of us can get hold of a book. We think this anti-racist reading list from the New York Times is a good one. As its author writes, “Think of it as a stepladder to antiracism, each step addressing a different stage of the journey toward destroying racism’s insidious hold on all of us.


Investing in Affordable Housing is More Than Building New Units

We are excited to share the news about a recent “rehab” project we completed in Fairview, where one of our 17 affordable housing communities is located. Residents of this 45-unit community now enjoy a fresh coat of exterior paint, mobility ramps, an outdoor children’s play area, new interiors and a new roof, to name just a few of the upgrades.

While building more housing is a necessary part of solving our housing and homelessness crises, we also must maintain the affordable housing we already have.

Read more about the project and our grand re-opening celebration in The Gresham Outlook.

Happy Holidays (Already!?!)

Okay so, it’s not quite winter holiday season yet! But for us, the planning for our Annual Toy Drive is very much underway. We invite you to be a part of our 15th year of this joyful tradition. All the details you’ll need to join in are on our web site – and this year we have sponsorship opportunities! Is your business interested in supporting a great community event? We know how to make event sponsorships a win-win.



Well that was a lot of news! I hope that you are enjoying the longer days and warmer weather of summer. We appreciate you keeping up with our work and being part of our community. So many are struggling in our region, but together we are making an enormous difference.





Andy Miller, Executive Director

PS – If you want to do something to address our homelessness crisis, make a gift to support Human Solutions today!

Moving back home from homelessness | May Update

Once again it’s been a busy month here at Human Solutions! Thanks to everyone for a very successful “Friends and Family” gathering at McMenamins’ Power Station Pub – we earned $3,000 because you came out to eat and enjoy each other’s company! We always appreciate the generous support of our local business community and your help in making that possible – thank you! Here are the top stories in our neck of the woods:

Introducing Lilac Meadows, our New Shelter for Families
We are thrilled to share the news with you that our emergency shelter program for families has found a new permanent home! In partnership with the Joint Office of Homeless Services, Human Solutions will be moving our program that supports families experiencing homelessness into a wonderful new shelter called Lilac Meadows in SE Portland, where the need is great.

To open Lilac Meadows, Multnomah County is “master leasing” an existing motel that we will update to best serve families experiencing homelessness. Human Solutions will sublease the motel from the County and operate it as a shelter. Residents of Lilac Meadows will enjoy the privacy that works best for families – something lacking in older-style mass shelters where everyone sleeps in the same room. We worked actively with the Joint Office of Homeless Services to identify a location that offers amenities families need, like a nearby park and grocery stores, access to public transit and ample parking.


In this new home, we can accommodate up to 40 families at a time. Human Solutions will provide families at Lilac Meadows with caring support, help accessing community services and assistance finding and securing their next permanent home. Our program at Lilac Meadows builds on our strong track record helping families find – and keep – permanent housing. Last year, 93% of the households we helped find housing remained housed a year later!

Learn more here and get info about how you can help by emailing Christina, our awesome volunteer and donations coordinator.

Meet Pat, She’s Working Hard to Move Back Home from Homelessness

Pat met her husband 48 years ago at Jefferson High School in NE Portland, where she later worked as a school secretary – one of three positions she held over a 37-year career! Together, they have three kids and now six grandchildren – with another on the way in Atlanta.

But in 2013 the wheels came off for Pat, as they sometimes can, one at a time. First a separation, which led to Pat losing her home of 50 years in NE Portland. Next, she moved in with her daughter. When that situation didn’t last, Pat moved into her car, where she lived for two years. Ultimately Pat was left with nothing but the clothes on her back. That was when she reached out for help. She found her way to Human Solutions’ Gresham Women’s Shelter, a safe, welcoming environment to get the support it takes to find a stable place to call home.

Pat is scheduled to move into her own place next month, which is terrific news! Her journey back to housing stability took a lot of hard work on her part – and expert support on ours.

Will you help those experiencing homelessness in our community – like Pat -move into stable housing? The value of your support is truly priceless. Your support helps us work with people like Pat to secure and keep their next home – a place to do everything from cooking favorite meals to hosting grandkids for a special sleepover with grandma. Home is a place for kids to do homework, cuddle up in a warm bed, eat their favorite family dishes, and to simply have a play date with a friend. On any given night, 130 households (about 210 people) stay in our two shelters. We want to help every one of our shelter residents find a safe and stable place to call home.

Just click here to say yes. With community support we can help Pat – and so many like her – move from homelessness to housing. Together, this is something we can do!

East County Update: Relevant Data & Conversations

Human Solutions has been working in East Portland/East Multnomah County since we opened our doors in 1988. It’s our home. We are paying close attention to the changes here and to how those changes will impact our neighbors. I recently had the opportunity to participate in a panel discussion about the state of East Multnomah County – one of the poorest and most diverse areas in Oregon – and how we can move forward to ensure that current residents can thrive and resist the displacement projected as this area experiences redevelopment. Here are two data points that we are focusing on:

  • 20% of households in the area live below the federal poverty level (on average, 2013-17). That’s higher compared to the state of Oregon (15%) and Portland metropolitan area (12%). For context, the federal poverty level is very low: $25,750 for a family of four, for example.
  • 61% of renters are cost-burdened – which means they spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing – the limit that HUD research shows is affordable for any household. Further, 35% of renter households are “severely” cost-burdened, meaning more than half of their income is spent on rent. For these families, homelessness is a real threat every month because they simply cannot afford to pay rent and meet other essential household expenses like food and medication.

You can read more about the report and the forum here. This is an important conversation we plan to continue until real solutions are identified.

Good Read | MAID: Hard Work, Low Pay and a Mother’s Will to Survive

This mother’s experience with domestic violence, poverty, substandard housing, low-wage pay without benefits, and government subsidies (that helped but weren’t easy) is an important eye opener for those who have not walked in those shoes. And one thing we can surely use more of today is more time spent in others’ shoes. This challenging time in Stephanie Land’s life takes place in the Pacific Northwest, too, so the backdrop is familiar and reminds us how close to home all this is.

“Rent plus groceries plus utilities plus laundry plus insurance plus gas plus clothing minus an hourly paycheck of barely more than minimum wage and the scant assistance parceled out by the government with spectacular reluctance — the brute poetry of home economics recurs throughout Land’s book.”
Read a review here and reserve it at Multnomah County Library here.

Things We Need, Ways to Help
We depend on and are grateful for our generous community, which so often steps up when we put out the call. This month we have two priority needs:

  • New Ovens: Our emergency women’s shelter needs a stove/oven upgrade and two new refrigerators. We estimate the cost to be around $10,000. We cook three meals every day for 90 women and 40 families, and our current equipment is no longer adequate and beginning to fail. Contact Marci, our Emergency Services Director if you are able to help.
  • After-School Program Volunteers: Our after-school program, LearnLinks, depends on volunteers to chaperone local summer field trips with kids in kindergarten to 8th grade. Got some free time this summer? Like working with kids? Great! Get in touch with our program manager Tonya Parson to learn more: tparson@humansolutions.org or 503. 548.0210.

Thanks, as always, for reading and paying attention to what’s happening here in East Portland/East Multnomah County. The need for change and investment is urgent and we are glad to have you as part of the Human Solutions family as we work hard to fulfill our mission.

Economic Check-Up for East County

 ECONorthwest and the Portland Business Alliance recently released their annual Economic Check-Up produced bywas recently released. There continue to be positive signs overall for Portland even with a slowing economy, but the housing unit stock remain low.

This report not only identified the challenges this area is experiencing, but the opportunities to create equitable prosperity across the region… it is critical that every part of our region thrives.

– Andrew Yoan, president and CEO of the Portland Business Alliance said.

East Portland, however, continues to struggle from a growing population in the Portland Metro. 60 percent of renters in East Portland are cost-burdened (committing over 30% of their income to rent) and 35% are severely cost burdened (committing 50% of their income to rent).

Find the Economic Check-Up report here and hear interpretations of the information from Andy Miller, Human Solutions’ Executive Director, along with a panel of experts in the Portland area here.


March eNews from Human Solutions

Winter Weather Shelter Info for Multnomah County

When it gets cold enough, the Joint Office of Homeless Services (operated by the City of Portland and Multnomah County) declares a severe weather advisory and brings additional shelter capacity online to ensure that everyone who wants to be inside can be inside for the night.

We are sharing here information from the Joint Office:

When the Joint Office declares a severe weather advisory, 211 becomes available 24 hours and will coordinate transportation to available shelters for anyone in need. A cold weather advisory also triggers additional outreach capacity, giving outreach workers more flexibility to obtain and distribute life-saving gear.

Overall, the Joint Office funds 1,365 year-round shelter beds and an additional 255 seasonal beds that are all open every night from late fall through early spring — no matter the forecast outside. In addition to those more than 1,600 beds, the Joint Office and Transition Projects stand ready to open severe weather beds as forecasts dictate.

Ways You Can Help:

Please donate winter gear

Service providers and the Joint Office are continuing their call for community donations of life-saving winter gear. Donations had been lower than usual this season, thanks to what had been a long run of mild conditions. Many people have since stepped up with donations as conditions took a turn, but more is always needed. Night after night, outreach workers have been handing out gear to keep people warm and safe as soon as it’s come in.

Items especially important to donate items including waterproof hats, gloves, blankets, tarps, sleeping bags and coats.

Please visit 211info.org/donations to see a specific list of winter gear and where it can be dropped off.

Human Solutions can accept donations at 12350 SE Powell Blvd., Monday to Friday 8 AM to 5 PM.

The following items are needed:

  • Thick socks
  • Waterproof/resistant gloves or mittens (preferably dark colors/black)
  • Waterproof/resistant winter coats (men’s and women’s sizes)
  • Sleeping bags and warm blankets
  • Waterproof/resistant hats (preferably dark colors/black)
  • Knit hats (preferably dark colors/black)
  • Tarps (preferably brown, dark colors)
  • Hand warmers
  • Rain ponchos

We appreciate everyone’s willingness to help, however they can. But please keep in mind: Some items, like home-cooked food, present health challenges around illnesses, allergies and germs — even from the most well-meaning donors — and can’t be accepted. In addition, volunteers and others working at shelter sites won’t have the capacity to track, clean and return food containers, flatware and other items left at shelter sites.

How to help neighbors in distress

If you see someone outside unsheltered whose life appears to be in danger or is in an apparent medical crisis, call 911. Otherwise, if you see someone about whom you are concerned, such as not being dressed for the weather conditions, call police non-emergency (503) 823-3333 and request a welfare check for that person.

To help someone find shelter and arrange transportation to shelter, please call 211.

Multnomah County offers mental health crisis resources, at any hour, for anyone experiencing a crisis. Mental health clinicians can provide direct phone assistance to individuals experiencing a mental-health crisis including: escalated symptoms of agitation, anxiety, depression, psychosis, dangerous to self or others, substance use, etc. Call (503) 988-4888 or visit the Multnomah County Mental Health Crisis Intervention website for more information.

When it’s cold outside
If someone outside is unsheltered and you are concerned they could be in danger due to cold weather, call 9-1-1 and request a welfare check. To help someone locate shelter and for transportation to shelter, please call 2-1-1 or go online at 211info.org.

A lone tent on a snowy day in Portland
People seeking to get warm on winter days when warming shelters are not open are welcome in government buildings that are open to the public, including, for example, libraries and community centers. Library hours are listed on Multnomah County Library’s website. City community center information is listed here.

Severe Weather Warming Centers
A Home for Everyone a collaboration between Multnomah County and the City of Portland. The partners, supported by the Joint Office of Homeless Services, operate shelters year-round for people experiencing homeless and add hundreds of beds open all winter. Beyond those year-round and seasonal beds, partners open additional warming shelters when severe weather hits to keep hundreds of people safe, generally 10 to 20 times each year.

Joint Office staff monitor weather conditions and open emergency warming centers as needed. Warming shelters may open when:

  • Temperatures are forecast at 25 degrees or below
  • Forecasters predict an inch or more of snow
  • Overnight temperatures drop below 32 degrees, with an inch of driving rain.
  • Other conditions occur as needed, including severe wind chills or extreme temperature fluctuations

Transition Projects will open one or more shelters based on need and location. This year those sites are Bud Clark Commons, Imago Dei and the Sunrise Center. These are low-barrier shelters with access for bikes, carts and pets. Additional shelters would open if conditions worsen. 211info moves to 24-hour operations and shares information about shelter options and donation needs, and coordinates transportation to shelter during severe weather events.

Seasonal Shelters
In addition to the severe-weather beds that open only when certain weather thresholds are met, the Joint Office of Homeless Services also opens 250 to 300 beds of seasonal shelter beds every fall, winter and spring. These beds are open night after night, no matter the forecast, from November/December through April. To make this work possible, the Joint Office works closely with business and faith leaders who donate space, as well as experienced shelter operators, including Transition Projects, Portland Homeless Family Solutions and Do Good Multnomah.

Just like with year-round shelters, winter shelters are available only through reservations. Anyone interested in accessing shelter should contact 211.

In 2018-19, the following winter shelters are open:

Walnut Park Shelter, 5329 NE Martin Luther King Blvd.; 80 beds, operated by Transition Projects
Winter Family Shelter, 1150 NW 17th Ave; 75 beds, operated by Portland Homeless Family Solutions
North Portland Emergency Warming Center, 4775 N Lombard St.; 50 beds, operated by Portsmouth Union Church and Do Good Multnomah
Rose City Park United Methodist Winter Shelter, 5830 NE Alameda; 40 beds (30 for non-veterans), operated by Do Good Multnomah, alongside their year-round shelter at the church.
Additional beds are also available in the youth homeless shelter system.
Cold Weather Alerts
Even when severe weather thresholds aren’t met — but when temperatures are forecast at 32 degrees or below — the Joint Office will issue a “cold weather alert.”

No severe weather beds will open during a cold weather alert. But providers will conduct additional and focused outreach and have the ability to quickly obtain and distribute cold weather gear. And 2-1-1 Info will move into 24-operations, sharing information on resources and helping people connect to available shelter.


Introducing: Path Builders! Our Monthly Giving Program

Issec and her son

Issec is thriving now – she has a job that she loves and a home she can afford where she can raise her 11-year-old son. But it wasn’t always this way.

Just a few years ago, Issec came to Human Solutions for help: she was experiencing emotional and economic instability and didn’t have a stable place to live. Issec worked hard with the incredible staff at Human Solutions, who helped her create a plan to get where she wanted to be, which included: getting her GED, finding a living-wage job she enjoys, and moving into a stable home with her son so he can continue attending his neighborhood school. And she accomplished it all. Wow, right?!

At Human Solutions, we help people build pathways out of poverty all the time. It’s what we do.

I’m excited to share with you that TODAY we are launching our new PATH BUILDERS monthly giving program, a convenient and powerful tool to invest in your community and live your values. We invite you to join up!

Will you be one of our first PATH BUILDERS?

Just click here – It’s easy to sign up with a credit card or your bank account.

Here are a few examples of how impactful your gift will be:

  • $5/month covers application fees for two people seeking housing
  • $10/month sends a recently trained Certified Nurse’s Assistant to work with a new uniform and start-up supplies
  • $25/month sends a woman to a 6-month trauma recovery & empowerment workshop series
  • $50/month purchases essential supplies for a family moving from homelessness into permanent housing
  • $100/month makes it possible for 10 kids to participate in band, sports or other special interests

Thank you for becoming a PATH BUILDER today! Signing up will give you the peace of mind that you are doing all that you can to prevent homelessness and end poverty in your community.

Questions? Prefer to sign up by phone? Matt can help – contact him at 503.548.0279 or mhushbeck@humansolutions.org.

Everyone at Human Solutions values our supporters because YOU are what fuels our work!