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Blanchet House stands behind the Portland Homelessness Response Action Plan and is committed to improving the lives of hundreds, if not thousands, in our community.

By Scott Kerman 


Like many people and organizations in our community, Blanchet House has reviewed the Homelessness Response Action Plan put forward by Multnomah County Chair Vega Pederson and Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler. We applaud many elements of this plan and will do our part to help it succeed because if successful, hundreds and maybe thousands of people’s lives will be improved.

Main Objectives of the Plan

Key two-year goals are to:

  • Increase the number of adults leaving temporary shelters for permanent housing by 15%.
  • Add 1,000 shelter beds.
  • Add hundreds more behavioral health beds.
  • Ensure that 75% of people in permanent supportive housing retain their housing 24 months after placement.
  • Reduce unsheltered homelessness for specific communities, including people of color and those who identify as LGBTQ+
  • End all behavior health, health system, or hospital discharges to the street.
  • End discharges from corrections settings to the street.
  • End homelessness for youth aging out of foster care.
  • Increase affordable housing through various ways including regulatory changes and new construction funding sources.

Some community members feel that this plan is ambitious and question whether the targets set forth are realistic. However, I believe that the plan’s sizable scope is not necessarily a negative. Our current housing crisis is extraordinary and requires a bold vision from our city and county governments. If this vision is matched by action, urgency, and efficiency, especially in getting projects off the ground and funding out the door, we will see substantial progress and many people will be helped.

Homeless Woman in Wheelchair

An older woman in a wheelchair waited outside Blanchet House for days waiting for a shelter bed to open up. She had been kicked out of other shelters because of unknown reasons. Photo by Julie Showers/Blanchet House, 2024.

A Holistic and Inclusive Approach is Essential

Blanchet House praises the plan for its comprehensive approach. The crisis we face is multifaceted and complex. We must simultaneously address the myriad of factors that cause an individual’s homelessness if we are to permanently end their suffering and housing insecurity. Addressing a person’s issues in isolation from others, whether it be housing, behavioral health, or substance use disorder, has not proven successful in the past.

We are especially grateful that the plan features a commitment by the city and county to work together, something that hasn’t always occurred to the community’s disadvantage. It’s also inspiring to see that Gov. Tina Kotek and the State of Oregon are invested in this plan and working with city and county leaders on its development and implementation. The plan acknowledges that a diverse group of stakeholders must be engaged and play a role if it is to succeed. This includes social services nonprofits like Blanchet House, health care providers, foster care and criminal justice systems, and the private sector.

Roll of Blanchet House and Social Service Nonprofits is Critical

Some parts of the Portland Homelessness Action Plan specifically target the work of Blanchet House and peer day centers like Rose Haven. We are encouraged that our efforts and challenges to service have been noticed.

First, is the plan’s goal to address the problem of people being discharged from hospitals and correctional facilities to the streets without shelter. Agencies such as ours volunteer to tend to the basic human needs of people newly homeless, sometimes still in their hospital gowns and slippers.

Second, is the plan’s acknowledgment that, “service providers were often asked to fill in systemic gaps by self-organizing even while they have not been universally supported with the capacity or funding to do so.”

This statement defines Blanchet House’s services since March 17, 2020, the first day of the COVID-19 shutdown in Oregon. We’re proud that we stepped up to fill gaps and support people in extraordinary need suffering from extraordinary mental and physical health challenges. And we’re grateful that our community has supported Blanchet House through volunteering, clothing and supply donations, and financial support. However, we need further help from the county and Joint Office of Homeless Services (JOHS) to sustain our programs and to meet the projected expanding need.

As the director of Blanchet House, I want the community to know that we are ready to support the Homelessness Response Action Plan. We believe that our daytime support services, especially our free meal program, and our residential programs are essential to the plan’s success. We look forward to continuing to collaborate with and partner with our colleague human service agencies. Financial support by Multnomah County in the form of continuing the soon-to-expire day center services funding approved last fall will go a long way toward turning this bold vision into reality.

Scott Kerman is the Executive Director of Blanchet House of Hospitality and Blanchet Farm.

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