A new legislative proposal has been introduced in Salem, Oregon, that could help low-income and homeless individuals in the state. Under Senate Bill 603, the People’s Housing Assistance Fund Demonstration Program would be established, which would provide monthly payments of $1,000 to qualifying individuals for two years.
This program would be administered by the Oregon Department of Human Services and is expected to help people living on the streets without housing assistance, those who are at risk of becoming homeless, individuals who make less than 60% of the area’s median income, and people who spend over half their monthly household income on rent.
Many Oregonians who are struggling financially are excited about the proposed program. In Portland’s Old Town neighborhood, individuals living in tents and trailers discussed the proposal and expressed hope for the assistance it could provide. For example, Alana Archer, who is currently living in a tent, believes it’s a good idea and would help her a lot. Jacob Irish, who lives in a trailer without heat, said he would also benefit from the program and could potentially get off the streets.
The program would be given $25 million to work with, and enrollment would be capped once that money runs out. This means that the program would only be able to help a certain number of people, and the assistance would be limited to two years. While the program would offer monthly payments of $1,000, these payments would have to be used for certain expenses, such as rent, food, childcare, emergency expenses, or other goods or services of the participant’s choosing.
The program’s design aims to help those in the most need. Those who are already receiving housing assistance, such as Section 8 or other government programs, would not be eligible for the program. The program would target individuals who are not receiving any other assistance and could greatly benefit from the extra funds.
Portland State University’s Homeless Research and Action Collaborative (HRAC) would receive a portion of the $25 million and be responsible for researching the project. HRAC would identify best practices from other programs around the country, make recommendations for the pilot’s implementation, and evaluate the pilot as it proceeds.
The evaluation would examine how people used the money and changes in their housing status and self-sufficiency metrics. The final evaluation would include recommendations on how a long-term statewide program could be implemented.
The proposed program has received mixed reactions from locals. Some are hopeful that the program will provide much-needed assistance to people struggling with homelessness and poverty. Others are more skeptical, concerned that the program could be abused and might not be effective in addressing the root causes of homelessness.
Many people living on the streets in Portland and other Oregon cities are struggling to get by on very little income. For example, Archer currently lives off of just $600 disability funds a month, and it’s barely enough to cover basic necessities like food, her phone bill, and ways to keep warm. For individuals like Archer, the proposed program could be a lifeline, providing essential support and potentially helping them move toward self-sufficiency.
The proposed program still has a long way to go before becoming law. It had an initial public hearing in committee last week, but it would still need to be passed by both chambers of the Oregon Legislature and signed by the Governor to become law. If passed, it would go into effect on January 1, 2024, and last for two years.