Portland officials said Friday that they are confident the city will find a new funding source to prevent the shutdown of a popular transportation and outreach service for the homeless.

The HOME Team did not score high enough in a city committee’s review to win federal funding in the latest round of Community Development Block Grants, which are distributed by the city. The loss means the program could stop operating July 1 unless other funding is found.

Now, city councilors and Mayor Michael Brennan have all but committed to ensuring that the six-day-a-week service will continue after money from the current grant runs out June 30.

“Based on past actions by the council, I think there is strong support for the HOME program,” Brennan said. “I fully expect for us to find funding to continue.”

Where that money will come from still must be determined.

The Homeless Outreach and Mobile Engagement Team is coordinated by the Milestone Foundation. From noon to 8 p.m., outreach workers rove the city looking for people who need a lift to Milestone’s shelter on India Street for a meal and a safe place to stay. They also respond to calls from downtown merchants, police officers or others who see people who need help.


City Councilor David Marshall said he has already requested that the $75,000 needed to sustain the HOME Team for another year be included in the city manager’s recommendation for the 2014-15 municipal budget.

“I’m really hopeful that it’s in there, or else I’m confident we’ll find votes to support it,” Marshall said.

Councilor Jon Hinck was cautious Friday about adding line items to the budget before its first draft is expected to be released, April 7. He said he expects the city to be constrained by non-discretionary spending like personnel and health care costs.

“It’s no question (that) it’s a good service,” Hinck said. “However, I don’t see a lot of room in Portland’s budget. Even without this, we’re facing tough budget choices.”

Tom Natalie, acting executive director of Milestone, said Thursday that the city already had plans to contribute $25,000 to the program in the next fiscal year. Natalie did not return a call for comment Friday.

A bigger contribution from the city budget would allow Milestone to continue the HOME Team’s job of easing pressure on police and EMTs, who would otherwise have to spend time answering calls for drunk, disorderly or passed-out people in public spaces. Since its inception in 2010, the program has won the support of the police and fire departments, whose chiefs say the program saves money and resources.


“The only alternative (is) what we had before,” Marshall said. “We’d be sending multiple police cars, multiple fire engines and ambulances to pick up every person who’s intoxicated on the street.”

Business owners say the program has worked for the downtown, giving business owners someone to call without involving the police.

Addicts and homeless people praise the service, too, saying the “rescue van” is a lifeline for people who need help getting off the streets.

In the 12 months that ended Jan. 31, the HOME Team recorded 8,008 contacts with clients, transporting 2,700 people, mostly to the Milestone shelter, the city’s “wet” shelter, accommodating alcoholics and other addicts.

Councilor Cheryl Leeman said she, too, is open to finding another funding source, perhaps from the city.

“I think the benefit we derive far outweighs what we would end up spending” without the HOME Team, Leeman said.

Matt Byrne can be contacted at 791-6303 or at:


Twitter: @MattByrnePPH

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