Interim Director Shannon Singleton Departs Joint Office of Homeless Services

The two governments that established the office continue to disagree on priorities.

Shannon Singleton announced Thursday her departure as interim director of the Joint Office of Homeless Services, a position she’s held for the past six months.

Singleton dropped out of the race for county chair to replace longtime Joint Office director Marc Jolin, who resigned earlier this year. She took over an office with a big budget—$262 million this year—and the enormous responsibility of reducing homelessness.

The Joint Office gets funding from both the the city of Portland and Multnomah County. The two governments have been in a yearslong tug of war over how the tens of millions of homeless dollars that flood into the office are spent. Tensions increased recently after Mayor Ted Wheeler demanded the county fund his plan for massive sanctioned campsites—a demand underscored by the implicit threat that the city could withdraw its funding from the Joint Office if it didn’t comply. (Despite its name, the Joint Office’s priorities and spending are directed by the Multnomah County chair.)

The announcement of Singleton’s departure came not from the Joint Office or Multnomah County, but from an independent public affairs professional. That’s a little unusual. But Denis Theriault, a spokesman for the Joint Office, says, “The transition was underway before the election.”

In an email Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury sent to staff on Thursday, she praised Singleton’s work during her time at the office, saying it’s the “most visible and scrutinized public work in the history of our community.”

There’s no severance package, as Singleton left of her own accord.

The deputy director of the Joint Office, Joshua Bates, will serve as the interim director while the county searches for a permanent replacement.

In an email to JOHS employees on Thursday, Singleton called her former staff “some of the smartest, most dedicated people I have ever had the privilege to work with.” She said her proudest work has been in making the office function more efficiently and creating a better budgeting and community outreach process.

Singleton will take a job as a director at a Black-owned public affairs firm called Espousal Strategies.

Multnomah County Department of Community Services director Jamie Waltz also stepped down today, a little more than two years after taking that job permanently.

Both departures follow election results from Tuesday, in which County Commissioner Jessica Vega Pederson topped Commissioner Sharon Meieran in the race to succeed Kafoury as county chair.