SROs Are Getting People Off the Streets in Portland

Single-room-occupancy hotels are providing much-needed affordable housing for the city’s most vulnerable residents.

1 minute read

May 10, 2019, 2:00 PM PDT

By Camille Fink

Portland skyline from the Benson Hotel

Angelo DeSantis / Flickr

Molly Harbarger and Elliot Njus report that single-room-occupancy buildings, once common in Portland, Oregon, are being used to help homeless people as they transition into permanent housing. "The city and county are staking more than $20 million on four projects they hope will both provide a home for the poorest in the city and fulfill a pledge to create housing bundled with social services for people suffering from addiction or other medical problems." 

Some homeless advocates are critical of the SROs and argue that people need more privacy and space. But residents say that a roof over their heads and the sense of community and safety are crucial as they face a host of other issues.

SROs are less costly to build and are more affordable for people with limited incomes, but offering additional services along with housing can drive up the price. Still, SRO advocates say the more holistic approach to addressing homelessness can help balance out these costs.

"By hosting medical services, addiction treatment, case managers and other support services on site, officials hope to keep residents off the street for the long term. It also saves the public costs otherwise absorbed through the courts, jails and hospitals," note Harbarger and Njus.

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