Pandemic Intensifies Need for Shelter throughout Oregon


Learn how Oregon Housing and Community Services is using $3.3 million in resources to create safe sheltering options for Oregonians

As the COVID-19 virus pandemic continues to grow throughout the world and in the United States, state and local public response systems are implementing a number of public health strategies to prevent further exposures and slow the spread of the virus in Oregon. Infections among people experiencing homelessness presents specific challenges for those Oregonians and local response structures. Oregon’s homeless shelter infrastructure was simply not set up to serve in the face of coronavirus. Social distancing and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) were not terms many of us were familiar with until a few weeks ago. This newly formed challenge has required Oregon Housing and Community Services (OHCS) along with its partner Community Action Agencies, Continuums of Care, and homeless service providers to respond swiftly with creativity and innovation while keeping equity and racial justice at the forefront.  

In this response, OHCS worked tirelessly to release $3.3 million in resources, creating safe sheltering options for Oregonians. These funds are already being utilized to expand shelter operations while maintaining social distancing, provide hotel and motel rooms for those in need of quarantine, purchase hygiene and sanitation supplies and to pay for the staff needed to conduct outreach and operate shelters.

In addition, OHCS and partners are working to ensure racial justice and equity remain front and center to COVID 19 response efforts. . While the crises of the past have perpetuated patterns of disparity for communities of color, we have chosen to create a different future. This is imperative. Access to safe sheltering opportunities through these resources is, and will continue to be, culturally specific and marketed to our neighbors of color who are experiencing homelessness.

While we realize that much more is needed to stabilize Oregon communities, we find hope in the leadership and innovation of Oregon’s homeless service system in the midst of this pandemic. At a time when fear could dictate action, OHCS and its partners have chosen to respond with empathy and selflessness. We know this is the Oregon way.

This moment reminds us that we’re all connected like never before. We’re called upon to be our best selves, with patience, understanding and compassion.

You can find more information and resources on the OHCS COVID-19 webpage.

About Author

Andrea Bell is the Director of Housing Stabilization with Oregon Housing & Community Services.

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