Nonprofit Catholic Charities of Oregon will lead an ambitious effort to reduce the number of people living on the street by 20 percent in five years. The organization already houses 1,000 people a year and has operated the women’s tiny-house transitional housing village in Kenton for the city-county Joint Office of Homeless Services for more than a year.
While there are more than 4,000 people experiencing homelessness in Multnomah County, the Catholic organizations want to serve the about 1,300 people who are considered “chronically homeless,” often people with obstacles that make it hard to stay in housing.
Providence Health and Services is a partner for the health side. Lisa Vance, chief executive for the Oregon region, said that not only do people without housing suffer from worse health problems than the general public, but that Providence -- like many hospitals -- doesn’t have enough warm, dry places for people to recuperate after being released from the hospital.
Vance wants for people housed through the project to be readmitted to the hospital 50 percent less than they were while homeless. Providence also plans to connect everyone housed through the partnership to physical and behavioral health services within five years.

“Living on the street is not health,” Vance said.
The initiative, which includes the Archdiocese of Oregon, is part of a national strategy. The three organizations applied together to convince Catholic Charities USA to pitch in resources in the Portland area. Detroit, Las Vegas, St. Louis and Spokane, Washington, are also involved.
In Portland, the plan is to build a variety of housing that would take advantage of existing Catholic facilities, open land and donations from the public, business, government and nonprofits. Catholic Charities of Oregon Executive Director Richard Birkel said that the money will be cobbled together from a variety of sources as well, with hopes that that’ll include the recently passed city and Metro housing bonds.
But Birkel does not have a price tag yet and said that is due to the fact that officials want this to be a community effort led by Catholic parishes in Multnomah County and Oregon.
“Now is the time to come together to solve homelessness in Oregon,” said Birkel, noting that there are 125 Catholic parishes in Oregon which will be recruited to think of ways they can offer services, money and other help for the program -- but that he hopes non-faith communities also see it as a model to replicate.
“There is a community heart here that is ready to make a difference on homelessness.”
The initiative will focus on people who struggle to stay in housing even if it is available. Often, those people have been living on the street for at least a year and have problems with mental health or addiction, disabilities or other issues that keep them from thriving in housing without extra support.
Birkel said the initiative will not require anyone to adhere to Catholic faith or teachings to take advantage of the housing.
“This is what we do as Catholic people,” said David Renshaw, spokesman for the Archdiocese of Portland.
Providence, Catholic organizations plan to cut homelessness by 20 percent
by Molly Harbarger | The Oregonian/OregonLive | february 21, 2019
The Christian “one body, many parts” doctrine includes homeless people, said officials with three Catholic organizations Wednesday. They announced a goal to make sure that 300 people who are living on the street are as safe and healthy as the bodies of parishioners who warm church pews.
David Renshaw of the Archidocese of Portland, Richard Birkel of Catholic Charities in Oregon and Lisa Vance of Providence Health and Services announced a plan to create 300 units of supportive housing to get 20 percent of the poorest in Portland off the streets.
March: Healthcare
The Chamber of Medford/Jackson County
101 E. 8th St.  |  Medford, OR 97501
Phone: (541) 779-4847

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