Washington County last week approved nearly $10 million for supportive housing services to support new and existing homeless shelters throughout the county.
The Board of Commissioners approved the funding with a unanimous vote on Tuesday, March 7, saying the effort to bolster the county’s shelter capacity is an important one — and more money is coming.
“I am really supportive of this,” said Commissioner Jerry Willey prior to the vote. “I think it takes an all hands on deck (approach) to get this done for our county-wide organizations, and I would certainly support us reallocating another $10 million tranche.”
The supportive housing services money comes from Metro-region taxes raised through a voter-approved May 2020 ballot measure.
Washington County has a goal of providing at least 250 year-round shelter beds with that revenue.
Officials say the county is on track to meet and even exceed this goal if all these new projects materialize.
The total shelter capacity already increased by 100 year-round beds during the first year of funding from 2021-22. Partway through the second year of supportive housing services funding, county staff say they are now up to 170 beds.
But these aren’t necessarily permanently viable locations, which is where the county says the need for more funding comes in.
“Not all of these shelters are permanent locations,” said Jes Larson, the county’s supportive housing services manager, at the March board meeting. “They are operating year-round and we are committed to maintaining that capacity in our system, but we still need to think about the long-term sites.”
The seven projects that secured funding awards are in Tigard, Beaverton, Hillsboro and Cornelius.
The Beaverton city government has acquired a property on Southwest Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway near Highway 217 that will be converted into a 60- to 70-bed congregate shelter. Washington County approved the city’s ask of $2.1 million for the renovation project.
Also in Beaverton, the Salvation Army’s Veterans and Family Center was granted $626,000 to support renovations for 22 units of non-congregate shelter specifically for veterans and their families.
In Tigard, Family Promise of Tualatin Valley received state Project Turnkey funding and wants to use $2.1 million in supportive housing services money to purchase the Quality Inn and convert it into a 70-unit non-congregated housing shelter. The project would be geared toward medically fragile individuals and families.
Just Compassion, a network of service organizations in Tigard and Beaverton, is also looking to build a new 55- to 60-bed shelter in Tigard next to its existing resource center on Southwest Hall Boulevard, right down the street from the planned bridge shelter at the Quality Inn.
This project received approval for $1.2 million in supportive housing services, though the total project cost is listed at $11.6 million in Just Compassion’s application.
Hillsboro was approved for $2.25 million to help fund its year-round shelter site, which will go on Northwest 17th Avenue, the site of the Safe Rest Pods shelter. Preliminary designs call for a 75-bed facility that offers a mix of congregate housing and individual “village style” units.
In Cornelius, Open Door HousingWorks — which already provides services at several county shelters, including at the Cloverleaf winter shelter at the fairgrounds and at the Safe Rest Pods — is also looking to acquire land for a future shelter. The county provisionally allocated $900,000 for the purchase of a site at the corner of North Davis Street and Fourth Avenue.
The Cornelius site could host the Safe Rest Pods currently located in west Hillsboro, where a year-round shelter is expected to be built. The county is also eyeing a property in neighboring Forest Grove that could host a similar “pod village.”
Finally, another former motel-turned-bridge shelter, called Casa Amparo, was approved for $600,000 to help convert the former Forest Grove Inn into a 20-unit non-congregate shelter.
In total, the county is allocating nearly $9.8 million from its supportive housing services money for these projects.
Some of the allocations are contingent on the organizations securing a purchase agreement for new site acquisitions, like in Open Door’s proposal.
“Washington County will only award Open Door the funding if they successfully close on a deal with the seller,” said Washington County spokesperson Emily Roots. “As in all real estate transactions, there is a degree of uncertainty until the ink dries.”
A project from Helping Hands, which wants to purchase a site to build a 40-bed congregate shelter using $1.2 million in supportive housing services funding, was ineligible for a money award because the group doesn’t yet have a site picked out.
County officials encouraged Helping Hands to reapply once details are firmed up.