(Rendering courtesy of Wolf Construction & Development)
Permanent Supportive Housing Initiative Provides Path to Stability
Warms Springs Housing Authority is breaking ground on an innovative Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) project that could prove a model for helping put chronically homeless people on a path to stability.
Under a program with Oregon Housing and Community Services (OHCS) — the state’s housing finance agency that provides funding and program support to create opportunities for quality, affordable housing for Oregonians of lower- and moderate-income — a community of small homes is being constructed on Tribal lands to offer a way forward for the most vulnerable community members.
The project will consist of ten, one-bed, 650-square-foot homes, aimed at singles or couples, and a duplex for a small family, flanking a communal central building, with the proposal being chosen from among a number considered for assistance from across the state. The community building also includes a kitchen, gathering area and room for storage.
Bend-based Wolf Construction and Development has been selected as the general contractor, while design is by 541 Architecture of Redmond.
OHCS has put a particular emphasis on tackling the problem of chronic homelessness, which is a term used to describe people who have experienced homelessness for at least a year — or repeatedly — while struggling with a disabling condition such as a serious mental illness, substance use disorder, or physical disability.
The agency has been recognized nationally for its leadership in increasing permanent stable and affordable supportive housing initiatives, developing an integrated statewide policy that addresses poverty and provides opportunities for Oregonians. It was a particular cause of previous Oregon Governor Kate Brown while also being championed by her successor, current incumbent Tina Kotek.
OHCS administers programs that provide housing stabilization — from preventing and ending homelessness, assisting with utilities to keep someone stable, to financing multifamily affordable housing, to encouraging homeownership. It delivers these programs primarily through grants, contracts, and loan agreements with local partners and community-based providers,
Sources of funds are varied and include federal and state resources that have complex regulatory compliance requirements, and thus stewardship, compliance monitoring, and asset management are all critical functions played by OHCS.
One thing that makes Oregon unique is the Oregon Supportive Housing Institute (SHI). Organizations interested in developing and managing PSH homes are selected to participate in the institute from across Oregon.
The SHI is a five-month PSH cohort where teams work to align their project with PSH best practices in design, development, and service delivery.
The project teams receive targeted training, technical assistance, and project planning support through the Corporation for Supportive Housing (CSH). Since 2019, 27 teams have completed the institute and are developing PSH units throughout Oregon, including the Warm Springs Housing Authority.
As a result of the concentrated effort on PSH, last year Oregon was able to surpass its 2019-2023 Statewide Housing Plan goal of funding more than 1,200 PSH units more than a year in advance. This was made possible in part through the collaboration and learning of other state housing agencies across the nation who have also implemented permanent supportive housing programs.
“We are excited to get started on this project which is actually one of the first proposals to utilize state funding in this direction,” WSHA Executive Director Danielle Wood said. ““It was part of the first cohort and was originally approved to move forward in 2020 but then the pandemic hit, so it has been a lot of work to get to this point of getting off the ground. Hopefully, this will provide a template for other communities in providing Permanent Supportive Housing targeting the chronically homeless, which have traditionally been the hardest to house.
“These units also have a covered back patio with a private backyard,” Wood continued. “Some residents may find it hard to adjust to sleeping indoors, so there are options in adapting too. This can be a transitionary step, or community members can also choose to make it a permanent situation on the path towards stability.”
OHCS Director Andrea Bell said PSH was a proven model that serves individuals and families experiencing chronic homelessness. By providing on-site, individualized services, PSH stabilizes individuals addressing their needs holistically using a “housing-first” approach and in the long term, is shown to increase societal benefits while decreasing the cost of public services.
Maintaining stable housing helps those who without housing may not be as successful in utilizing services to achieve and maintain recovery, health and wellness.
“We do not accept homelessness as a fact of life,” Bell added. “To the people of Oregon struggling to get by: We see you and will continue working every moment for you. The progress of our state should be measured by how people are doing. Our collective humanity means that we are most effective when everyone is being served and has their basic needs met.”
“It is great to see this program take shape and the funding being provided to help municipalities come up with infrastructure to transition those in critical need to permanent housing,” Wolf Construction principal Scott Wolf added. “Permanent Supportive Housing is a very big topic right now in every state and city; as we all know, homelessness is a crisis and growing problem and it is a big challenge to come up with solutions. I am a big advocate for PSH, and we come to the table with value engineering expertise and as a contractor committed to help deliver the project within required criteria. I believe in the need to address low-income housing and to be among the contractors who can help create beautiful well-built buildings in this area.”
All PSH households receive supportive resident services to help build community and improve housing stability, and also receive intensive case management services.
The work to build more PSH developments in Oregon continues given the magnitude of Oregon’s housing needs. Currently, there are a number of PSH projects throughout the state participating in the OHCS Supportive Housing Institute.
Advocates say without low-barrier, supportive housing, there are almost no options for our most vulnerable community members to exit homelessness and this population is unlikely to exit homelessness without a sustainable, holistic, housing-first.
Moving forward, OHCS plans to continue to work alongside the community and partners to find innovative and equity-centered solutions to help families who are experiencing homelessness. For more information go to oregon.gov/ohcs.
About Warm Springs Housing Authority (WSHA):
WHSA is responsible for: Assisting and promoting affordable housing activities to develop, maintain and operate affordable housing in safe and healthy environments on the Reservation and in other Indian areas for occupancy by low-income Indian families; Ensuring better access to private mortgage markets for Indian tribes and their members and to promote self-sufficiency of Indian tribes and their members; Coordinating activities to provide housing for Indian tribes and their members with federal, state, and local activities to further economic and community development for Indian tribes and their members; Planning for and integrating infrastructure resources for Indian tribes with housing development for tribes; and promoting the development of private capital markets in Indian country and to allow such markets to operate and grow, thereby benefiting Indian communities.
About Oregon Housing and Community Services:
Oregon Housing and Community Services provides resources for Oregonians to reduce poverty and increase access to stable housing. The agency’s intentional focus on both housing and community services allows it to serve Oregonians holistically across the housing continuum, including preventing and ending homelessness, assisting with utilities, providing housing stability support, financing multifamily affordable housing, and encouraging homeownership.