A coalition of Portland community organizations announced the 3,000 Challenge earlier this month advocating for area landlords to be part of the solution to the homeless crisis and commit to making at least one of their vacant units available to currently homeless individuals and/or families. Housing Oregon’s board has endorsed the campaign.

The effort is in response to recent proposals from City of Portland officials pushing the wrong “solutions,” investing precious resources in enforcing illegal camping bans, coercing people into mass shelters and institutionalized encampments segregated from community support, and threatening criminalization for those who feel safer sheltering in place. These actions increase racial disparities, intensify trauma, cost millions, and do not add a single unit of housing.

Solutions must include permanent housing, and the access to that housing must promote racial equity and work to eliminate racial disparities in homelessness, even as we work to end homelessness for everyone. Strategies must address the root causes of homelessness by providing rapid access to permanent housing and a continuum of services and supports. For many, housing may be enough to end their homelessness, while for others, a continuum of care must be made available to support healing and recovery.

All of these options must be non-coercive: people must be free to choose whether they participate in any of these options, and options must not be connected to bans and sweeps.

Housing Oregon’s board has endorsed the campaign along with other member organizations including Urban League, Human Solutions, Hacienda, JOIN, NAYA, Casa of Oregon, Rose CDC, Community Partners for Affordable Housing, Housing Development Center, Innovative Housing Inc.

Here are the three strategies in The 3,000 Challenge:

1. Access empty apartments using rent support, landlord coordination and wraparound services.

Property owners can be a part of the solution and commit to making at least one of your vacant units available (link to sign the pledge). City and County, support this effort with vouchers, rent buy downs, and ongoing rental subsidies to incentivize greater participation. Nonprofits can provide wraparound support and retention services. Local government needs to prioritize fully funding and coordinating this effort. Create master leases to secure housing units for nonprofit or governmental entities to match diverse housing opportunities with people who need them. Community members can call on their neighbors to recognize that this support keeps people housed.

2. Purchase properties that are ready to provide housing now.

Support nonprofit and public acquisition and operation of motels/hotels, newly constructed apartments and other buildings that are ready to convert to a “ready-now” model of affordable housing. Deploy best practices from Oregon’s Project Turnkey model and the Terner Center Study to quickly and cost-effectively convert existing buildings into supportive housing. Be bold, leave no housing vacant when people are sleeping outdoors tonight.

3. Ensure that more of our new and existing affordable housing is affordable and accessible to people experiencing homelessness and that screening criteria does not exacerbate racial disparities.

Our pipeline of affordable housing, financed by local bond measures, tax credits and other financing tools, should more deeply prioritize people experiencing homelessness. We can fund rent buy downs and integrate deeper service and financial supports with our affordable housing pipeline so that more of our permanently affordable housing is immediately accessible to and affordable by people currently experiencing long-term homelessness. By creating even more supportive housing and housing that models Housing First principles within the housing we are already financing, we ensure we are building permanent homes tailored to the needs of people who most need them.

To learn more and to endorse go to: https://3000challengepdx.org/