Lynne Terry

(Oregon Capital Chronicle) The Biden administration announced this week it’s awarding more than $3 billion to thousands of programs nationwide to fight homelessness.

That amount, for 2003 Continuum of Care grants, marks a new high, the administration said.

“We are doing all we can to get people off the street and into permanent homes with access to services,” said Marcia Fudge, the Housing and Urban Development secretary in a release. “That is why we are making sure the service providers on the frontlines of this crisis have the resources they need.”

The grants include more than $60 million for Oregon nonprofits and other entities to support programs that house young people and others from Portland, Medford and Ashland to Deschutes, Crook and Jefferson counties.

A total of 140 applicants won grants ranging from more than $8 million to $10,000. More than $50 million is allocated to current programs to keep them going, while more than $4 million is aimed at keeping young people housed. More than $2 million is for new initiatives in Clackamas, Lane, Marion, and Multnomah counties, along with about the same amount for planning initiatives.

Oregon’s six Democratic lawmakers in Congress – Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley and Reps. Earl Blumenauer, Suzanne Bonamici, Val Hoyle and Andrea Salinas – welcomed the money in a joint statement.

“These new and continuing awards are vital for communities and individuals in need of critical housing resources and support. I won’t stop working to ensure Oregonians in every corner of the state have access to safe, dependable, and affordable housing,” Merkley said.

A large share of the money is going to nonprofit and government programs in the Portland area.

Home Forward, the public housing authority for Multnomah County, won the biggest grant of nearly $8.4 million. The money will be used to fund several ongoing programs that currently serve nearly 500 households by helping them with rent and social services.

“We are very grateful to HUD for this vital funding support that allows us to keep up with rent increases while maintaining our current service levels for the nearly 500 households in our community who rely on this assistance,” Martha Calhoon, a spokesperson for Home Forward, said in a statement.

The programs help a range of low-income people, including those with chronic addictions or who’ve been chronically homeless, people with HIV who have a mental disability, veterans who’ve been homeless, households with at least one person with a disability and heads of households suffering from severe and persistent mental illness.

Most are on Medicaid, and they pay 30% of their adjusted gross income for rent. If they have no income, they pay nothing.

A total of 12 agencies involved with the grant provide housing, addiction treatment, mental health and other social services. Those agencies include Central City Concern, a large provider based in Portland; Multnomah County; Cascadia Health, one of the largest behavioral health care agencies in the state; and the Veterans Affairs.

Central City Concern won its own grant of $3.4 million, the second biggest. Spokesperson Juliana Lukasik said the money is dedicated to a program that provides long-term housing stability for people with high needs, including those with addictions, severe and persistent mental illness and the chronically homeless.

Those in the program pay 30% of their rent. Last year, the program served about 185 people, including nearly 160 who’ve been chronically homeless. Lukasik said about 60% had retained housing for more than five years while about 95% had stayed housed for more more than one year.186 client served

Like Home Forward, Central City Concern works with other agencies, including the Native American Rehabilitation Association, to provide health care and other services, and it uses people who’ve experienced homelessness themselves as peers to help those in the program.

The third biggest grant, nearly $3 million, went to the Washington County Department of Housing Services. A spokeswoman, Emily Roots, said in a statement that the money will be used to help house about 200 households. To qualify, participants must have a disability and be chronically homeless at the time of acceptance into the program.

They are required to pay 30% of the rent, and they’re housed in apartments, Roots said. A variety of services are offered such as behavioral health treatment, aging and disability services, HIV/AIDS services and general case management.