Metro 300 Initiative

For Immediate Release: Friday, March 12, 2021

Sponsored by: Housing Services Department

A unique partnership between the Housing Authority of Washington County, Kaiser Permanente, Health Share of Oregon and Bienestar is providing an opportunity for 80 houseless older adults and people with disabilities to access safe, stable housing in Washington County. The initiative known as Metro 300 is funded by Kaiser Permanente through an investment of $5.1 million in the greater Portland area. Metro 300 is designed to serve a total of 300 houseless older adults and is the first major investment in the Regional Supportive Housing Impact Fund (RSHIF). The RSHIF is designed to ensure that resources for critical housing needs are made available as quickly and efficiently as possible for medically vulnerable people in the tri-county area. As fund administrator, Health Share allocates the funding to housing agencies in each county who in turn work with their network of providers to serve those who are eligible.

In Washington County, the program has allowed the Housing Authority of Washington County (HAWC) to take an innovative and catalytic approach to providing assistance for those facing extreme challenges. Kaiser Permanente’s $1.3 million investment in Washington County has provided the opportunity for HAWC to serve individuals who have previously cycled through the homeless system numerous times. The flexible funding approach has enabled HAWC to utilize a variety of creative strategies to help participants eliminate barriers that have prevented them from securing housing in the past. These include assistance in settling old debts, paying application fees and even providing temporary hotel stays as they search for stable housing.

Changing the Status Quo on Delivery of Homeless Services
Initial efforts by Washington County Disability, Aging and Veteran Services (DAVS) to help several of their eligible clients navigate the application process revealed numerous barriers that were difficult to overcome. As staff recognized that the system needed to create new capacity which had not existed before, Health Share’s Housing Program Manager Ryan Deibert and HAWC Assistant Director Josh Crites developed a strategy to create three new “housing navigator” positions within the Housing Authority to expand support and advocacy.

Through Kaiser Permanente’s flexible funding strategy, along with an innovative problem-solving approach from Health Share, the addition of housing navigators was transformational for Washington County. The navigators are able to assist clients with tasks such as filling out applications, locating missing documents, contacting previous landlords to help clear up old debts and setting up viewing appointments with potential new landlords, all of which have been extremely successful in enabling this vulnerable population to obtain permanent housing.

Leading with Race

An important outcome of the Metro 300 program, recognized by HAWC, Health Share and Kaiser Permanente, has been that true systems change means investing in culturally specific organizations. HAWC selected Bienestar, a local nonprofit, to provide culturally specific housing outreach and navigation services for communities of color. Bienestar owns and operates affordable multifamily housing in Washington County and works to build housing, hope and community for Latinx people, immigrants and all families in need. Kaiser Permanente’s strategic investment in Washington County is not only life-changing for the 80 individuals who directly benefit from the program but it is also allowing for culturally-specific providers to build their capacity to provide housing outreach and navigation services in the wider community.

Bienestar’s history and commitment to serving communities of color, and in particular Latinx and immigrant communities, makes them a unique partner in this effort. Extending services to the houseless population in Washington County is a natural extension of Bienestar’s mission to promote housing stability for individuals and families.

As stated by Washington County Board Chair Kathryn Harrington, “This truly innovative partnership between Washington County, Kaiser Permanente, Health Share and Bienestar is exactly the type of programming that will allow our County to house the most vulnerable in our community while ensuring that we are leading with race throughout the entire process.”

As HAWC continues to work with new program applicants, their goal is to house all 80 individuals by early 2021. With the passage of the metro-wide Supportive Housing Services (SHS) program, all Washington County participants in Metro 300 will continue to be served as the Kaiser Permanente funds are replaced with SHS resources in the latter part of 2021 or early 2022.

Media Contact:

Josh Crites, Housing Services Assistant Director