Name change reflects the 15-year-old nonprofit’s increased commitment to preventing homelessness, director says.
Portland Homeless Family Solutions, a 15-year-old nonprofit that serves hundreds of families annually, announced a new name and rebrand Friday. The new name — Path Home — reflects an increased emphasis on preventing homelessness in addition to helping families that have already lost their housing, executive director Brandi Tuck tells Oregon Business.
“We started talking about changing our name really about a decade ago,” Tuck says. “In 2012 we first started helping families move directly from homelessness back into housing. When we started going out to appeal to landlords and would tell them, ‘We're working with Portland Homeless Family Solutions,’ we automatically tell them that our clients don't have homes. And we did experience a lot of discrimination as a result.”
The other factor in the name change was simply that Portland Homeless Family Solutions wasn’t the easiest name to remember or say, Tuck says. So the organization’s board went through a lengthy strategizing process with its public relations agency, Weinstein Public Relations, to come up with a more memorable name that reflects the breadth of the nonprofit’s work.
The nonprofit was founded in 2007 and started out overseeing the Goose Hollow Family Shelter, which provided shelter for eight families with children. PHFS’ budget that year was $78,000, and the organization employed four people, Tuck says. In 2022 the organization had an annual budget of $4.5 million and employed 53 people. More than half — 52% — of the organization’s employees identify as BIPOC, 48% identify as LGBTQ and 37% have a disability. In the past year, the nonprofit served about 450 families, or 1,400 people total.
The nonprofit still runs a shelter, but moved from Goose Hollow to Portland’s Lents neighborhood in 2020. The new shelter can house as many as 25 families.
In 2017 PHFS began a homelessness-prevention pilot project, providing financial assistance to families in danger of losing their housing. It’s since become a permanent program.
“These are families with children who have an income, they're working, they have housing. They are living paycheck to paycheck a lot of times, but they are making ends meet,” Tuck says. “What happens is when there's an emergency, they don't have enough savings to be able to pay their rent. They'll get a 72-hour eviction notice, and PHFS will step in to help families prevent that eviction and keep their housing long term.”
Generally, the organization provides cash assistance. PHFS also has a Rapid Rehousing program to help families get back into housing, but that program is much more expensive: Homelessness prevention costs, on average, $3,500 per family, where rehousing costs $10,000 per family.
That’s partly because of costs like security deposits, and for things like furniture and basic home supplies. It’s also because, very often, families that have lost housing have lost documents that can be critical for getting back into stable homes — like photo IDs and other things that can be costly and time consuming to replace.
In 2021 PHFS also launched a basic income program that provides $575 in cash to families, once per month, for two years — and has, so far, had encouraging results, according to Tuck.
“The goal is to show that giving cash is one of the most effective ways to end poverty — not just ending homelessness, but helping people actually end poverty,” Tuck says. “Some of the early results that we've seen through our pilot project are that parents are going back to community college to get associate's degrees and trade degrees, and folks are moving from low-income, minimum-wage jobs into working through programs like Oregon Tradeswomen to get into flagging jobs and construction-trades jobs.
“I believe there is a solution to homelessness in our community. We have 40 years of worldwide data to show that rapid rehousing, helping people move from homelessness back into permanent housing, is the most effective way to address homelessness. While shelters can be very helpful as an intermediary step — as a pathway on someone's journey from homelessness to housing — shelter doesn't actually solve homelessness for anyone,” Tuck says.
Tuck spoke to Oregon Business before Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler announced plans to end homeless camping and instead relocate unsheltered residents to 500-person “campuses” around the city. But that announcement — which is not funded and about which few details have been announced — echoes other recent proposals that have not materialized, such as a plan for safe-rest villages announced last year.
“In our community, we're putting a lot of resources into providing shelter without a pathway into housing,” Tuck says. “We have to be really conscious that the solution to homelessness is housing, and not just warehousing people in shelters and camps. I believe there is enough housing that if we reprioritized our dollars in the right way, I think we could provide housing for every single person that's outside right now.”
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