Oregon governor signs new $200 million homeless spending package

Published: Mar. 29, 2023 at 12:15 PM PDT
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SALEM Ore. (KPTV) - Oregon Governor Tina Kotek on Wednesday is signing a new homeless and affordable housing spending bill into law.

The package, consisting of HB 2001 and HB 5019, known as the Affordable Housing & Emergency Homelessness Response Package, is a bipartisan $200 million that’s intended to speed up construction of affordable housing in Oregon.

Last week Gov. Tina Kotek said that funding in this massive new spending package can only be applied to outdoor shelter sites if they have more permanent structures and not tents.

Cascadia Clusters is a local nonprofit building tiny home villages and sleeping pods across Portland.  The team says building a single pod on a platform that could fit in one of the sacntioned sites would cost under $5000 and take about three days to build. Director and founder Andy Olshin says the governor’s funding is a huge plus, but should have some flexibility.

“The fact that she’s got some good ideas about putting walls and a locking door and a window, of course that’s better than a tent,” said Olshin. “But that doesn’t mean that we can’t start with tents on platforms.”

SEE ALSO: New affordable housing opens in NE Portland, Kotek says she hopes for more

Olshin has worked in homeless and housing services for much of his career. He says should the funding be made available, new sites offering outdoor alternative shelter in Portland should be allowed to evolve into sites that have more permanent structures.

“Tents on top of secure platforms that are well built and are protected from rodents can be a workable option, especially if there is some kind of overhang,” he said. “If you’re really transitioning folks from the street it’s a continuum of options that we need to provide.”

Olshin says Cascadia Clusters has discussed with the city about possibly being involved in building platforms for tents in the sanctioned campsites being rolled out this year.

Olshin stresses Cascadia Cluster’s approach has been effective, employing people like Bob Reimmer who once experienced homelessness, to help built alternative housing sites from the ground up. Reimmer showed a FOX 12 crew one of the pods being built in NE Portland that is designed to cover a tent from harsh weather, but he says with the right funding, it could be more than that.

“If funding sources become more available, you can then just take the tent down and treat it like it’s a house,” said Reimmer.  “Insulate it, get it better painted get it finished.”

Statements from Portland and Multnomah County officials Wednesday say they are all in support of the new dollars coming from the state, but a concrete plan to build alternative shelter sites using state dollars in Portland and Multnomah County has not been finalized yet.