One of the most pressing issues facing Oregon communities is the need for sustainable solutions to homelessness. Lack of sustainable housing is having a dramatic impact on the health and safety of Oregonians. In 2018, an estimated 14,476 people experienced homelessness in Oregon.
When people are homeless, they search every day for a warm, dry place to sleep. They must also find places to use a bathroom, wash, get nutritious food and tend to their medical needs. Life-threatening health conditions occur when these basic needs aren’t met.
To better care for patients’ overall health, Providence clinics now screen for housing insecurity. The results of this screening, plus a systematic assessment of housing needs throughout Oregon, reveal the need for immediate action. Providence has invested more than $5.7 million since 2017 in short and long-term housing solutions.
Providence partnered with Catholic Charities of Oregon in 2019 on the Healthy Housing Initiative. The goal of the program is to reduce chronic homelessness in the Portland metro area. Richard Birkel, executive director of Catholic Charities of Oregon, says the initiative will create supportive housing for up to 300 people in Portland.
Local Catholic parishes are integral to the initiative’s success. “Our first step is to meet with parishes to learn of their interest and support for potential projects that could be built on their property or repurpose existing buildings that are not in use,” says Birkel. “We are working with the Archdiocese of Portland to create an inventory of properties in the area that can help … those who are chronically homeless.”
By collaborating with local parishes to build new facilities or repurpose vacant facilities, the Healthy Housing Initiative is establishing permanent supportive housing units and helping homeless people get off the street. Once people have a safe place to call home, the program helps them access resources, such as financial counseling and employment services. Providence is also working to connect 100% of the newly housed people with primary care and behavioral health services.
Together with strong community partners, Providence is creating safe, permanent housing that will enable homeless and at-risk people to lead more self-sufficient, healthier lives.
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