Eugene Chamber Unhoused Initiative Progress Report
Over the past few years it has become increasingly clear that two complex – distinct, but at times related – issues have become top priorities for the business community: (1) declining public safety, and (2) the growing number of unhoused and unsheltered individuals living at-risk in our community. As the concerns and requests for help from businesses escalated, the Eugene Chamber Board of Directors agreed that bringing the private sector to the table to accelerate our community toward permanent solutions to homelessness needed to be a top priority for the Chamber.
This priority resulted in the September 2021 State of Our Homelessness Crisis Report, an in-depth report of the issues resulting from over 150 interviews with local businesses, service providers, and the unhoused and unsheltered. This report culminated into 8 recommendations which the Eugene Chamber has worked to address since this time.
Nearly 2 years since this report came out, a lot of progress has been made to research, educate and communicate to businesses, and the broader community, about the issues surrounding homelessness and public safety. Efforts to move to action are becoming fruitful as well.
This spring we have made progress on data collection, a chamber-led initiative to create 75 transitional jobs for unhoused individuals in our community, and brought together a cross sector group of community members to identify shared community goals and actions.
Read on to learn more about what the Eugene business community has been up to over the past 2 years.
Recommendation, Quality Data: Cost Analysis
In 2023, in partnership with the City of Eugene, City of Springfield, Lane County, Homes For Good, and Willamalane the Eugene Chamber contracted with EcoNorthwest to conduct a cost analysis to better understand the sources and uses of funding related to homelessness in our community. We expect that report in the next month and will use that data to help educate the community and inform discussions and decisions around how we can better resource solutions to our homeless and housing crisis.
Recommendation, Wrap-Around Services: Unhoused Workforce Initiative
Early on in our engagement with businesses, leaders expressed interest in creating opportunities and connections for unhoused, yet sheltered individuals who were able and interested to have a pathway to employment.
For the past six months, we have been partnering directly with sheltering organizations so that as their residents stabilize and are ready to re-enter the workforce or increase their employment, we can bring training programs and employers to the table, which the Chamber is uniquely positioned to do.
This benefits our members (businesses) because it helps them have an impactful way to help unhoused individuals and potentially a creative way to find new employees. It helps our sheltering organizations by providing an income for their residents to have the ability to move into housing as it becomes available (thus freeing up shelter space for more unhoused to move off the streets).
This summer we are excited to kick off a partnership with Food For Lane County and shelter partners to employ a cohort of unhoused individuals in their paid warehouse training program. Once individuals complete the program, we are working with local employers to place them in permanent positions in the community.
We are working with community partners on a similar partnership for industrial sewing training and employment opportunities. These are the first two of several employment pilots we are working on this year.
With grant support and partnership from Lane Community Health Coalition and Lane Workforce Partnership, our goal is to create 75 transitional job opportunities for unhoused individuals this year.
Recommendation, Collective Impact: Community Roadmap & Shared Goals
After phase one of our homeless initiative, focused on research and education we have moved into the next phase of our work focused on convening community partners and identifying areas for action. This spring we have begun convening a cross-sector group of community members in hopes of identifying a shared vision and measurable goals for moving the needle collectively on this issue.
This group will provide a leadership role in identifying shared goals with measurable outcomes and timelines for accomplishing each strategy. We will also collaborate to determine how to communicate, hold accountable and fund this community action plan around homelessness.
While the chamber is playing a convening role for these conversations we are grateful for the multitude of subject matter experts leading the discussions and coming together to look at this crisis differently as a community.
We know addressing a crisis of this magnitude is a marathon, not a sprint, yet we truly believe there is a light at the end of this tunnel, and hope to inspire community partners to unite to end homelessness in our community.
If you are interested in getting involved in this work, please reach out to Sylvia Barry or Homeless Initiative Manager at email@example.com.