JOHS Meets Challenge of Emergency Shelter Through Period of Severe Cold

The last week of December in 2021 brought the longest stretch of extremely cold and snowy weather that the Portland area had seen in years. And it was landing at the same time as a surge in COVID-19 cases, spurred by the contagious omicron variant.

And the Joint Office of Homeless Services – working with our community service providers, and our partners at Multnomah County Emergency Management, the Health Department and the Department of County Human Services, Metro and the City of Portland – was ready.

Tents covered in snow. Near Morrison Bridge in SE Portland

Image of tents covered in snow, December 2021. Near Morrison Bridge in SE Portland. Image from Multnomah County.

We had been preparing for a winter emergency for months, in order to be ready to provide support for our unhoused neighbors during any severe weather events this winter. That work also included being ready to keep people safe from the elements while managing the ongoing risks from COVID-19. 

During the 11-day period from 12/20/2021 to 1/1/2021, we were able to open seven winter shelters. In total we served 2,377 bed nights, with over 6,000 meals served. 

We also worked through our downtown outreach supply center to provide life-saving gear to community groups, mutual aid groups and volunteers. Those groups braved the elements and joined our contracted outreach workers in delivering:

  • 2,079 sleeping bags 

  • 4,640 tarps

  • 2,646 tents 

  • 5,939 blankets

  • 9,808 pairs of socks 

  • 3,930 ponchos

  • 3,400 Mylar thermal sleeping bags

  • 7,277 hot hands

  • 1,846 hoodies, 

  • 1,993 sweatpants

  • 5,698 gloves 

  • 5,614 hats

Just a month before this severe cold event, we also managed to open a new winter shelter with beds and services in North Portland. The Arbor Lodge Shelter, run by our community partner Do Good Multnomah, opened in November 2021 in a former Rite Aid with space for 70 people, including 12 in sleeping pods. Arbor Lodge is the first hybrid shelter space with a traditional indoor space and sleeping pods outside. This added to the winter shelter capacity we already have at the Greyhound and Walnut Park shelters, and through Janus Youth.

In addition to all the usual challenges, this extreme weather event hit the county at a time of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 surging across the US. The Joint Office worked with the local Health Department and our providers to distribute new KN95 masks to everyone in the warming shelters. We also had the Health Department come to the warming shelters to conduct vaccination clinics, to help slow the spread of this variant in our community.

All year long, the Joint Office works with providers to connect neighbors to shelter, housing, outreach, gear, and prevention services. And in severe weather like what Multnomah County experienced in the last part of December, county and city employees join staff from our community providers, and volunteers from the public, to ensure that no one who needs a warm, dry place will be turned away - no matter how many days of severe weather we have.

Want to help our houseless neighbors through future severe weather events?

Sign up here to train with Transition Projects as a volunteer for Severe Weather Shelter. 

Click here to donate gear and supplies to community based organizations.

Can you help with this year’s Point in Time Count of Homelessness?

We are looking for volunteers to help with this year's Multnomah County Point-in-Time Street Count, conducted every other year by Portland State University and the Joint Office of Homeless Services.

The purpose of the Street Count is to learn more about the individuals and families experiencing unsheltered homelessness in Multnomah County. 

By volunteering, you can help address the crisis of homelessness in our county by counting how many people are sleeping on the street on a single night. The more volunteers participate, the more accurate our count can be.

Volunteers work with agency staff to talk with people about the survey, invite them to participate, and then fill out the survey form. Specific requirements and shift schedules will vary by agency. Most shifts last from two to four hours. Shifts will be available during morning, daytime and evening hours. The majority of the shifts will be scheduled the evening of Wednesday, January 26 through the evening of Friday, January 28 but there are shifts through February 1. Even volunteering for a few hours helps immensely.

Sign up to volunteer for the Point-in-Time Street Count

DEADLINE: January 31, 2021 - Service providers: Submit your proposals for funding

Pods located at the Arbor Lodge Shelter on N. Lombard St., which opened on November 19th, 2021

Pods located at the Arbor Lodge Shelter, which opened on Nov. 19th, 2021

Multnomah County, in partnership with Washington County and Clackamas County, released a Tri-County Supportive Housing Services Request for Programmatic Qualifications (RFPQ), on December 1, 2021.

The goal of this RFPQ is to partner with the service providers working to address regional homelessness, support the expansion of their work, and work with them to eliminate racial disparities in homeless, health and housing services. 

Each county is seeking to expand its pool of qualified service providers for contracting, especially culturally specific service providers and affordable housing owners. 

The RFPQ opened Dec. 1, 2021, and proposals are due by 4 p.m. Jan. 31, 2022. 

Here is the link to apply on the ProcureNow website

This new procurement is a streamlined process consisting of one application that will qualify applicants to contract with Washington, Multnomah and Clackamas Counties for five years. Organizations will be qualified to provide a variety of services, to all systems/populations (youth, family, domestic violence, and adult), under the following areas: 

  • Outreach and engagement

  • Shelter and transitional housing

  • Connections to stable housing

  • Supportive housing stabilization services

  • Wrap-around support 

Responding to feedback from community partners across the region, we are providing two levels of technical assistance. Washington County will provide support on how to use the online procurement site. And two third-party consultants will also be available, from Dec. 15, 2021, through Jan. 21, 2022, to provide one-on-one application assistance. 

To apply for this RFPQ, which is hosted by Washington County, vendors need to register for an OpenGov account here. Applications are due Jan. 31, 2022, at 4 p.m. Interested organizations should attend a pre-proposal conference on Dec. 7 or  Dec. 8, 2021, or Jan. 12, 2022, to learn more about this Tri-County SHS procurement process. 

At the conference, participants will be able to ask questions of the panelists and procurement teams from each of the three counties. Registration is required. Please select your preferred date to register.

*Please indicate your language preference in the registration. Interpretation options include the following languages - Spanish: Español, Vietnamese: Tiếng Việt, Chinese: 中文, Russian: Русский, Romanian: Română, Ukrainian: Україньска, Japanese: 日本語, Somali: Soomaali, Somali: Soomaali, Arabic: عربي, Laotian: ລາວ 

Any other preferred language option please reach out to:[email protected]


If you have any questions about what this means for your organization, please email [email protected]. Any questions directly related to the new RFPQ should be submitted through the Questions & Answers tab in the OpenGov procurement portal.

In addition to the webinars listed above, the Joint Office of Homeless Services is providing technical writing support to help organizations interested in applying for the RFPQ. Send us an email for more information.

NEW DEADLINE: March 17! Do you want to provide alternative shelter in Multnomah County? Could partnership with the Joint Office help make it happen? Submit your proposals for funding, support!

Construction on the Joint Office of Homeless Services-supported St. Johns Village in December 2020.

Construction on the Joint Office of Homeless Services-supported St. Johns Village in December 2020.

The Joint Office of Homeless Services, on behalf of the City of Portland and Multnomah County, wants to hear proposals from community-based organizations who want to create new shelter options for people experiencing unsheltered homelessness in Multnomah County.

These new options would add to the housing-focused response system built by the Joint Office since 2016. That system includes more than 1,300 year-round, 24-hour shelter beds; supportive housing to help people end homelessness by not just gaining housing but keeping it; and new models of street outreach.

As a first step, the Joint Office is launching a Request for Programmatic Qualifications, or RFPQ, process. The RFPQ opened Feb. 17, and proposals must be submitted by March 17. Your proposal can be fully developed or relatively preliminary at this stage.

We don’t want the process to be a barrier to getting your ideas, so if you run into technical challenges, please contact Kathi Braeme-Burr, senior procurement analyst at Multnomah County, at [email protected] or 503-988-7550.

What kinds of alternative services are being sought?

Proposers may offer to provide a wide range of alternative shelter options (e.g. “villages,” safe parking programs, modular shelters, etc.). Shelter options can be indoor or outdoor. Proposers are encouraged to identify a site, but that’s not required.

Any proposal that shows an improvement for participants vs. sleeping unsheltered in unsanctioned public spaces will be considered.

But proposals will be evaluated through an equity lens and on a range of factors, including the population served, geographic equity, readiness to proceed and the amount of support for program participants offered relative to program cost.

How much funding is available in total?

The Joint Office is proposing $3 million to support alternative shelter projects. Up to $1 million is anticipated to cover ongoing operations costs, while the balance will likely support one-time start-up costs.

These sums will make a meaningful impact only if, as intended, they leverage substantial community-level investments of space, materials, labor and funding.

How can an interested organization start the process?

Read the PDF attached above, or at the County’s Multco Marketplace procurement platform. Then use Marketplace to submit your proposal.

Organizations should detail the program they would like to operate. Those details will help determine which proposals advance to a second round of consideration, or lead to additional requests for information. Questions to consider include:

  • Tell us about your organization. Do you have experience with the kind of shelter proposed, or with the population the program would serve?

  • Tell us how the program would operate. Which populations would it serve? Would it offer culturally responsive/specific services? How many people? Which services will be offered? Will it have barriers to access? What size staff?

  • How the program would look and where it would be located. Is there a site? What kinds of pods/buildings would it need? Are any site improvements needed?

  • Budget and costs. How much would it cost to staff and operate? How much would it cost to set up? Would it leverage other community support?

  • Community engagement. What nearby stakeholders will engage around support?

Gathering submissions like yours is the first stage of our two-stage process.

Following Stage I, we will review responses, develop additional requirements and determine next steps. That will lead to Stage II, where we will score and qualify proposers to contract with us. Proposers will learn more about Stage II before it begins.

Finally, a separate allocation process will determine any contracts for specific projects.

How can I learn to navigate the Marketplace platform?

If you’ve never used Multco Marketplace before, you’ll need to go to Marketplace’s “supplier portal” and create/register an account. It’s a mandatory step. The link is at

Marketplace can be a dauntingly technical platform – especially for organizations that provide services like shelter and outreach, as opposed to basic manufactured materials.

We strongly urge you to attend an upcoming virtual walk-through of this RFPQ where you can ask questions and walk step by step through the process with experts. That conference is currently set for 10 a.m., Feb. 26. But please consult the RFPQ directly for updated information, in case the event shifts to a later date/time.

First COVID-19 and now dangerous smoke: Gratitude for the community's support through yet another crisis in 2020

This has already been one of the most trying years imaginable for our work. Homelessness and systemic racism were emergencies hurting thousands of people in our community every day, even before a pandemic came along and made everything worse. And then, this week, we watched our forests burn and our skies dim with dangerous smoke, as thousands more Oregonians lost their livelihoods and homes. 


And yet, in the middle of so much darkness and pain, we continue to see profound bright spots and reasons for hope. 

With the air itself threatening neighbors on our streets, a community that could have said it was too tired after months of fighting a public health crisis stood up and got ready to help us provide shelter and support for our neighbors in need. Again.

From concerned neighbors and volunteers to nonprofit partners and government agencies — to those of you already surviving without shelter, taking steps to care for and protect one another —  you all linked arms and got to work.

On Thursday night, Metro stepped forward and opened additional bays of the Oregon Convention Center for shelter — including space for people living outside with nowhere else to go. 

IMG_5159 (1).JPG

Outreach teams and volunteers, Joint Office staff, Multnomah County and City of Portland staff, shelter workers, local businesses and neighbors jumped from their busy work days to an even busier work night. They started distributing the first wave of tens of thousands of newly acquired KN95 masks to people, while helping others get into shelter and out of the toxic smoke.

Teams from Transition Projects, JOIN and Cascadia Behavioral Health hit the streets. Do Good Multnomah sent shelter workers to join County Emergency Management staff who’ve been running our COVID-19 spaces. 

211 jumped in to help triage calls and referrals. Transition Projects sent over gear on trucks mustered by the City of Portland. Advocates and providers like Street Roots and Blanchet House, and hundreds of community members, started spreading the word. 

All of this within a few hours.

Then, on Friday, everyone came back to do it all again. And more.

At the Joint Office’s supply center, 27 outreach providers and volunteer groups — from Portland Street Medicine to a group of neighbors from the Overlook neighborhood — braved the yellow skies to pick up some 22,500 masks, along with gallons of sanitizer and other gear that’s just as essential now as it’s been throughout the pandemic.

Those teams will work all weekend, taking those supplies to every part of the county. And the Joint Office will staff that center all weekend to make sure anyone else who wants supplies can come and get them, too.

Last night, our shelter partners and County and Joint Office staff also pushed themselves to do even more. This time it came with an enormous assist from Portland Parks and Recreation. With the Convention Center up and running, our teams set themselves to standing up shelter in two community centers, both of which had only recently stopped serving as COVID-19 shelters. 

In all, in the span of a day, we had a couple of hundred 24-hour beds available for the duration of this dangerous air event. But not without more help.

Volunteers from the city’s Neighborhood Emergency Teams, among others, signed up as staff, willing to spend parts of their weekend in service. Local restaurants started preparing and sharing extra meals. Neighbors brought hygiene supplies and bottles of water. The Medical Reserve Corps mobilized to care for people in the shelters.

In moments like this — in the face of systemic problems like homelessness and racism, and in the face of natural disasters like wildfires and pandemics — it’s easy to feel small. Especially after months of grinding.

But in this community, time and time again we’ve shown that just getting by isn’t good enough.

We come together, knowing we can help each other to do anything we need to do, big and small, to support our neighbors in need. And this weekend, that means helping hundreds of neighbors with gear and a safer place to be. 

We can’t do this work alone. We’re grateful as always that we don’t have to.

And when the air has cleared at last, and when we finally find a vaccine that ends this pandemic, when we’re back to fighting homelessness and racism all on their own, we know you’ll stand ready to help us with the same spirit. Thank you.

With Rent Due October 1, City and County Deploying Millions in COVID Relief

With Oregon’s eviction moratorium expiring in less than two months — and Congress stalled on adding rent support to a new COVID-19 bill — governments in the Portland metro area are investing millions of dollars to help thousands of families on the edge of losing their housing.

The Portland Housing Bureau, the Joint Office of Homeless Services, Multnomah County’s Department of County Human Services, and regional housing authority Home Forward have banded together to deploy $29 million in rent assistance to COVID-impacted households throughout Multnomah County over the next several months. Those funds include $25 million from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

Renters have until March 2021 to repay any back rent they accrued during the eviction moratorium, which lasts through Sept. 30, but starting Oct. 1, renters will need to resume paying their rent every month, or risk eviction.

That’s why the COVID-19 Rent Relief Program (CVRRP) is dedicating state, local and federal CARES Act funding to prevent evictions caused by the financial and health impacts of COVID-19. The program will provide up to three months of rent assistance to eligible households, prioritizing rent payments due on and after Oct. 1.

Because the COVID crisis has magnified the existing economic and health disparities for Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color (BIPOC) communities resulting from systemic and institutionalized racism, resources will be primarily deployed through culturally specific agencies and other community organizations to effectively reach and serve BIPOC households and communities.

Allocations of CVRRP rent assistance include:

  • $11.3 million will be distributed through the Short-Term Rent Assistance (STRA) network of 19 community partners. Two-thirds of the funding will be allocated through culturally specific organizations serving BIPOC communities.

  • $5.5 million will be distributed through 211info for general access. To help families better access this assistance, Multnomah County has also invested in new staff to help process applications. That support will help 211info and Bienestar de la Familia, a culturally specific program of Multnomah County serving Latino/Latinx and African immigrant communities.

  • $4.5 million will be distributed to the Portland Housing Bureau’s affordable housing providers, prioritizing BIPOC residents and residents with a disability.

  • $1 million will be distributed through Worksystems Inc. partner network, prioritizing BIPOC households seeking job training and placement services through employment programs.

In addition, partners in this program are committed to growing the network of organizations to conduct outreach, eligibility, and intake beyond those who traditionally provide Short-Term Rent Assistance.

Earlier this year, Multnomah County awarded the Joint Office $1 million from its general fund to expand culturally specific homelessness services. Because of COVID-19, a portion of those funds will be used to help culturally specific providers add capacity around distributing rental assistance. 

And today, the Portland Housing Bureau (PHB) released a Request for Interest to identify organizations serving BIPOC communities who can broaden the reach of the traditional rent-assistance system to help deploy an additional $6.75 million of rent assistance.

Additionally, new partner organizations will be identified through a separate solicitation to distribute $15 million in City funds in the form of $500 VISA gift cards. Those gift cards will assist impacted Portlanders with dependent care costs, food, household supplies, medical needs, rent and utility payments, transportation, and other household expenses. An estimated 80-90% of funds will be provided to BIPOC culturally specific organizations.

“It’s vital that we address the lived experience of those among us who are most vulnerable to this pandemic. Racial disparities in COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths are growing. Nationally and locally, people of color are more likely to be unemployed or working in essential, frontline jobs where they are at high risk of exposure,” Mayor Wheeler said.

“We know these funds won’t go far enough to meet the tremendous need in our community, but we’re being strategic and intentional in seeking out partnerships that will help ensure we are getting assistance into the hands of those hardest hit by this crisis.”

In all, the shared investment is expected to help more than 4,300 households with rent assistance between now and December 31. But with more than 21,400 households across Portland and Multnomah County, on average, unable to pay rent in a given month, meeting the current need would cost more than $30 million a month — well beyond what state and local governments can afford without more federal help.

“Making sure everyone has housing during and after this pandemic is a matter of public health and basic humanity. Congress must include sufficient rent assistance in a new federal stimulus package,” Chair Deborah Kafoury said.

“We need you to help us call on Congress to do the right thing. Our local members of Congress understand what’s at stake, and they share our urgency — but their colleagues need to hear from you. If Congress doesn’t rise to this occasion, millions of households across the country, not just the thousands of people at risk in our community, will be at greater and greater risk.”

Those in need of assistance should call 2-1-1 or visit


Adult Homeless Services Request for Programmatic Qualifications is Now Open!

Release date: October 4, 2019
Contact: Lynn Faulkenberry, [email protected]

October 4, 2019 | Portland, Or. – The City of Portland/Multnomah County’s Joint Office of Homeless Services (JOHS) is seeking applications to qualify organizations to provide a range of services to adults unaccompanied by minor children who are experiencing or at imminent risk of homelessness in Multnomah County – listed as RFPQ-51-2020.

This RFPQ will be comprised of two stages. Stage I will qualify applicants on organizational experience and capacity, while Stage II will qualify organizations to provide specific components of Adult Homeless Services. Suppliers who previously qualified under JOHS Adult Homeless Services RFPQ-26-2019 remain qualified through fiscal year 2023-24 and do not need to reapply under RFPQ-51-2020, however, if a Supplier previously qualified under last year’s Adult Homeless Services RFPQ-26-2019 wishes to qualify in additional service components, they must apply in Stage I and Stage II of RFPQ-51-2020.

Stage I released today, October 4, 2019 at 8:00 AM. It will be open for approximately 32 days, with a submission deadline of Monday, November 4, 2019 at 4:00 PM. Those who qualify in Stage I will be invited to apply for Stage II upon its release in late-November.

Multnomah County will be holding an informational meeting for interested applicants, also known as a Pre-Proposal Conference, on Monday, October 14, 2019 at 9:00 AM at the Joint Office of Homeless Services at 721 SW Oak St. Suite 100 Conference Room, Portland, OR 97205. Interested applicants are strongly encouraged to attend.

To access this RFPQ and apply, interested applicants must be registered on MultCo Marketplace's Supplier Portal. See below for links to the supplier portal and a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) document.

FY 2020-21 Adult Homeless Services Procurement | Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

The Joint Office of Homeless Services (JOHS) is procuring qualified Suppliers to provide component services to adult households, including but not limited to adult singles, couples or any other arrangements without dependent children (under age 18), and who are experiencing homelessness in Multnomah County. The procurement period will extend four (4) years, beginning in Fiscal Year (FY) 2020-21 and lasting through FY 2023-24. The procurement will involve a two-stage process.

Stage I will establish a qualified pool of Suppliers considered to have met the minimum organizational thresholds to directly contract with JOHS to provide Adult Homeless Services. Only Suppliers qualified in Stage I of this procurement are eligible to respond to Stage II.

Stage II will invite Suppliers qualified through Stage I to demonstrate their interest and qualification to provide specific components of Adult Homeless Services through demonstration of written project proposal(s). Suppliers who are qualified through Stage II to provide components of Adult Homeless Services will be eligible to contract for those services with JOHS at any time over the four (4) year Contract Period.

Q: What is a procurement?

A: The process of soliciting Suppliers to apply to become qualified providers of contracted services.

Q: What is a Supplier?

A: A Supplier is any agency, organization, service provider or other entity qualified by JOHS to provide contracted component services to adult households experiencing homelessness.

Q: What service components are included in this Adult Homeless Services procurement?

A: Supportive Housing, Rapid Re-Housing, Outreach and Engagement, Diversion, Safety off the Streets, Service Support and Access Coordination, and Income Acquisition and Employment.

Q: When will the application period for this procurement open, and what is the deadline for Stage I?

A: The application period for Stage I will open October 4, 2019 and will be open for approximately thirty-two (32) days. All Stage I applications must be received electronically by 4:00 PM on November 4, 2019. The Stage II application period will open in late-November.

Q: If I qualified under RFPQ-26-2019 to provide Adult Homeless Services, do I need to reapply under RFPQ-51-2020?

A: No. Suppliers who previously qualified under RFPQ-26-2019 remain qualified through fiscal year 2023-24. However, if a Supplier previously qualified under RFPQ-26-2019 wishes to qualify in additional service components, they must apply in Stage I and Stage II of RFPQ-51-2020.

Q: Last year’s RFPQ-26-2019 qualified Suppliers for a period of five (5) years. Why is JOHS opening another procurement for Adult Homeless Services?

A: Recognizing that RFPQ-26-2019 was the first of its kind for local homeless services providers, we are opening an additional opportunity to enter the Supplier pool to ensure it is reflective of community need.

Q: I don’t know if my organization qualified under the previous procurement RFPQ-26-2019. How can I find out?

A: A list of previously qualified providers can be found under Attachment R of RFPQ-51-2020.

Q: How and where do I submit my application?

A: To apply for Stage I, applicants must be registered on Multco Marketplace. Multnomah County’s Department of County Management maintains a web page and video meant to assist with registration. Suppliers must complete the entire application to be considered. Electronic submission is required.

Q: Is there a limit to the number of suppliers that can qualify under this RFPQ?

A: No. There is no limit to the number of Suppliers that may qualify.

Q: What criteria will you use to evaluate applicants in Stage I?

A: Stage I will evaluate applicants on a series of organizational qualifiers and can be found under Attachment C of RFPQ-51-2020. Completed and on-time applications will be reviewed by a panel of evaluators.

Q: What is the process for Suppliers interested in advancing from Stage I to Stage II?

A: Any entity wishing to become qualified to contract with JOHS must apply through Stage I. Once, and if qualified under Stage I, qualified Suppliers must then submit service proposal(s) under Stage II to be considered for a contract award through JOHS. Eligible applicants will be invited to apply in Stage II.

Q: Once Suppliers are qualified, how long is the procurement period for?

A: This procurement period is for four (4) years, beginning in FY 2020-21 and lasting through FY 2023-24.

Q: If I qualify under Stage I, why do I need to apply under Stage II?

A: Stage I qualifies Suppliers to become eligible to submit service proposal(s) in Stage II. To be considered for a contract award(s), you must participate in Stage II.

Q: How can I learn more about the application process and ask questions?

A: JOHS will host a pre-proposal conference where applicants will have the opportunity to ask questions and hear information on the application process. The Stage I pre-proposal conference will be held on Monday, October 14, 2019 at 9:00 AM at the Joint Office of Homeless Services at 721 SW Oak St. Suite 100 Conference Room, Portland, Or 97205. RSVP not required.

For additional information, or to obtain a copy of this FAQ in an alternate language, please contact Lailah Hamblin at [email protected]

For questions related to Multco Marketplace, please contact [email protected]

Up-to-date information on Adult Homeless Services RFPQ-51-2020 can be found at the County’s Bids and Proposal site at