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Compassionate Help for the Homeless: Addressing a Complex Societal Issue
Homelessness is not new and it’s not a “Hillsboro problem,” but it has become more visible in our region in recent years. That has prompted actual comments like these through email and social media:
- "It would be nice if (our) city could be responsible and do more to keep the homeless out of (our) parks."
- "What's going to be done with all the homeless everywhere?"
- "Nothing is being done to curb the (homeless) problem."
Ending homelessness is not as simple as wanting to help those in need. Homelessness is a complex societal issue that has challenged Americans and American communities for hundreds of years.
In fact, homelessness is a global challenge that’s about much more than living without a home. It's about the causes and barriers that prevent people from getting into safe and affordable housing.
Homeless community members are struggling beyond basic daily needs, such as food, shelter, clothing, and personal care. Feelings of loneliness, being unworthy, and not being part of society, are emotional and mental struggles experienced daily by many homeless men, women, and children. They remain worthy of our respect and compassion. They are part of our community.
While the City of Hillsboro and Washington County are involved in addressing the issue, federal, state, and nonprofit partnerships are needed to meaningfully address homelessness.
Here are some of the steps the City of Hillsboro is taking to dedicate additional resources and to maintain Hillsboro’s livability for everyone.
The City of Hillsboro Police Department hired a full-time Homeless Liaison Officer in 2018 to develop connections with homeless community members and help them locate available services, to positively influence behavior, and to be proactive about crime prevention and enforcement, while recognizing that being homeless is not a crime.
The City partnered with HomePlate Youth Services for a dedicated outreach worker to work with homeless youth in Hillsboro. Since August, the outreach worker has worked to connect youth to housing and family support, and to be a resource for City staff about the needs of homeless youth.
The City launched a job skills development program for youth experiencing housing instability. During the six-month program, the youth identified by HomePlate works with the City. The program also works to address their basic needs.
- The City has launched homelessness task forces focused on two areas:
- Engaging local business owners and employees on the impacts of homelessness in our community and what partners can do to be part of a solution;
- Identifying recommendations for City-led policy initiatives.
- City employees are identifying barriers that homeless community members face in accessing service and support, including mental health services, and in acquiring and maintaining housing.
City employees are counting the number of community members experiencing homelessness in Hillsboro. Later this month (January 2019), the City will lead the counting in partnership with local nonprofit Community Action.
The City sponsors and distributes free resource guides for homeless community members. StreetRoots lists available services in Washington and Multnomah counties.
The City Council and City staff are working to become better educated about the complexities of homelessness and understand what programs and services that other communities have successfully implemented might serve Hillsboro well.
In October, the City Council held a work session to listen to testimony from community members who have experienced being homeless in Hillsboro. A follow-up work session with task force recommendations will take place later this year.
Where are Shelters in Hillsboro?
SOS Shelter at Orenco Station (Sonrise Church): A severe weather shelter serving men, women, and couples without children. The shelter opened on December 3 and will remain open through February for up to 50 homeless individuals each night. sos-shelter.org, 503-640-2449
Safe Place for Youth: A shelter with supportive services for homeless, runaway, and at-risk youth ages 12 to 19. boysandgirlsaid.org, 503-542-2717
Family Promise: A family shelter for women and/or men with children. familypromisewashingtoncountyoregon.org, 503-844-2919
Community Action Family Shelter: A wait list managed for three shelters that serve families with children or mothers in the last trimester of pregnancy. caowash.org, 503-640-3263
How Can You Help?
- Share information about available resources
- Provide an indoor place to sleep, if only temporary, for people who you know and trust
- Donate to local community groups, such as the Oregon Food Bank, Community Action, and HomePlate Youth Services
Additional Resources on Homelessness:
- Washington County shelter information
- HomePlate Youth Services
City of Hillsboro Community Impact Grant information (Focused on homelessness and housing stability from 2017 to 2020)
2018 Hillsboro City Council Priority: "Continue working with community partners to resolve homelessness."
Be part of overall efforts to address issues of homelessness by developing partnerships and identifying actions to be taken.
Community Action is the lead community partner in the Hillsboro 2035 Community Plan action items that call for pursuing housing-first strategies to provide the homeless with stable shelter while they are accessing other services; and providing targeted assistance to at-risk populations to reduce homelessness, including transitional youth.
Continue close partnership with Washington County in implementing the 10-year plan to end homelessness.