For Two Months, City Asked Joint Office for Rent Assistance Dollars to Move Pod Residents Into Housing

The lack of money stopped almost all movement from the Clinton Triangle into housing, the mayor’s office says.

WAITING: Man leans on a van outside Clinton Triangle Temporary Alternative Shelter Site. (Brian Burk)

In recent weeks, WW has reported on the continuing difficulties of the Multnomah County Joint Office of Homeless Services to spend the money it gets from the Metro Supportive Housing Services Center.

The underspending frustrates nonprofits, such as Bradley Angle, which provides shelter for survivors of domestic violence, and east county cities, including Fairview, Troutdale and Wood Village, which say their requests for support from the Joint Office of Homeless Services have fallen on deaf ears.

The latest party to grumble that the Joint Office is failing to share the wealth that taxpayers have bestowed: Mayor Ted Wheeler’s office, which says that despite the fact that the city of Portland is a partner in the Joint Office of Homeless Services, its funding request for rent assistance dollars was also rejected.

Wheeler’s top adviser on homelesss issues, Skye Brocker-Knapp, says the city has asked the Joint Office for two months to give it rent assistance dollars to help residents at the city’s Clinton Triangle pod village transition into housing. But until Friday, the mayor’s office says, the Joint Office denied any such funding was available.

The result of that, according to mayoral staff, is that the flow of people out of the 160-pod Clinton Triangle and into housing has slowed to a trickle. Wheeler’s temporary alternative shelters—Clinton Triangle being the first established and the largest—are a crucial piece of the city and county’s latest joint plan to cut homelessness in half by 2026.

“I have spoken to all three of you about the need for housing dollars/rental support for the City’s [safe rest village] and [temporary alternative] shelters. I have been trying to problem solve and find potential avenues to increase some flow through to housing, but have been told there are not funds available...other than the few folks who are working within the Housing Multnomah Now program,” Brocker-Knapp wrote in a March 21 email to top Joint Office and Multnomah County staff. “This work is paralyzed and stagnant, if we are unable to connect folks to housing.”

The mayor’s office even said it had contractors on hand, ready to help people move.

“I know we have provider capacity issues, so I am offering to handle the housing and case management at the City and with our own contracted providers,” Brocker-Knapp wrote to county and Joint Office officials in the March 21 email. “They are ready and able to take this on.”

But Joint Office officials have rebuffed the idea for months, Brocker-Knapp says, insisting no funding is available.

That is, until Friday afternoon, when Brocker-Knapp spoke to Joint Office executive director Dan Field.

“Field says they’ve identified one-time funding for rental assistance and they want to talk to us on Monday about it,” Brocker-Knapp tells WW. The $3 million could provide rent assistance to about 100 Clinton Triangle residents.

Denis Theriault, a Joint Office spokesman, confirmed that his colleagues are in conversation with the city, seeking a solution. The request came in in writing yesterday, and we are actively meeting to discuss this,” Theriault says.

Brocker-Knapp says that as recently as Monday, a Joint Office staffer told her funding was unavailable.

While Multnomah County does fund some services at Clinton Triangle, like a mobile medical team and job readiness training, steady housing assistance is not one of those services. Housing Multnomah Now, a housing initiative launched by Multnomah County Chair Jessica Vega Pederson last year, is currently helping about 10 Clinton Triangle residents connect with housing.

Instead, the funding that helped place Clinton Triangle residents into permanent housing came from the state (although it passed through the county).

Multnomah County received $3.5 million from the state under Gov. Kotek’s homelessness emergency declaration last fall to subsidize rent for those experiencing homelessness. With those dollars, the city and county worked together to house 275 people from city shelters, over 100 from Clinton Triangle.

But the state money ran out Jan. 10.

“Now, we have slowed to a trickle,” Brocker-Knapp tells WW, “just a couple of people housed a month.”

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