Table of Contents:   


Social Services


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Equitable access to social services ensures that all Portlanders have the opportunity to succeed.

Section Summary

Portlanders express appreciation for the quality, variety and number of social services available. While they applaud the abundant services offered to meet basic needs like food and clothing, people are concerned that gaps exist in housing services, such as transitional housing, affordable housing options and shelters for people experiencing homelessness or domestic violence (especially for women).

Generally, respondents believe social services should receive stable funding, often citing the role of government and big businesses in providing these resources. Portlanders also want unnecessary duplication of services eliminated and better coordination between agencies that serve similar populations. They urge equal access to social services by removing the barriers that different groups face to receiving the services they need. 

Summary of Main Ideas

  1. Portlanders express gratitude for agencies that offer a variety of services.
  2. People want to see a change in, and expansion of, social services.
  3. Social services should lead to greater opportunities for service recipients.
  4. There should be more stable funding for social services.


  1. Portlanders express gratitude for agencies that offer a variety of services.
  • Many people value existing services that provide for the basic needs of people struggling with homelessness (see Social Issues: Homelessness).
  • Those who receive services attest to the number of available service options and express their appreciation for kind service providers.
  • Some respondents mention valuing services and centers for the Latino community as well as for other immigrants and refugees.
  • Recovery services are essential resources for people who wish to overcome addiction.
  • Resources for basic needs like food and clothing are abundant, but there are not enough shelters.
"I value all the great services for homeless people downtown…There’s also some really nice places to live and they’re some really caring people working at those places. It makes me feel valued.”

"[I would like to see] continued attention and focus on provision of social services and affordable housing for those in need. We can only set a good example by doing better than we are in these areas. If we are a truly compassionate city, let’s walk the talk!”

  1. People want to see a change in, and expansion of, social services.
  • There should be more creative, comprehensive approaches to social services.
  • Clients should be consulted and actively participate in the creation of these approaches.
  • The community should place less emphasis on incarceration and more emphasis on prevention and rehabilitation.
  • Social services should be better coordinated to avoid unnecessary bureaucracy for people trying to access them.
  • Everyone deserves equal treatment and care, ensuring dignity and respect for all people seeking services.
  • People would like to see social services greatly expanded. Specific groups needing more support and attention include:
    • Immigrants and refugees;
    • People living with HIV/AIDS;
    • People experiencing homelessness (particularly youth);
    • The aging population;
    • People experiencing mental health issues;
    • Young people (specifically prevention services for minority youth);
    • People that live in East Portland;
    • Families; and
    • People with substance abuse problems.
  • Respondents also single out certain types of social services and programs that need to be expanded. These include:
    • Job placement services;
    • Community mental health and treatment centers;
    • Family counseling;
    • Drug and alcohol recovery services;
    • Respite care (not just foster); and
    • Tattoo removal for former gang-affiliated youth.
"Refugees are not given enough support. They come here and after 8 months they are left alone. Some of them don’t know how to use a stove and they have spent years in the refugee camps. There is no support for them. Why bring refugees here if you are not going to help them?”

“What we need – a youth center, a place for kids to go to do something productive. I feel strong about this – kids need a place to where they can play basketball, eat a sandwich, swim, and more. Kids could go to a youth center as they would not want to go to a church.”

Sample Strategies:

  1. Build community centers that also provide services.
  2. Offer comprehensive, early intervention for youth that couples services like crime prevention with mental health services.

  1. Social services should lead to greater opportunities for service recipients.
  • Services should be more client-centered, where people can create their own change.
  • Services should concentrate on alleviating and preventing poverty.
  • More affordable housing will help reduce homelessness.
“I feel services for those deemed less desirable are trying to solve an unsolvable reality and will only support our national identity of separating the classes. these agencies are lacking in transparency, meaning the managers are the few participating in dialogue and they interact very minimally, if at all, with the people receiving services the agencies that provide these services don't really encourage dialogue about race, class, privilege, diversity, access to resources and the many roots of poverty. It's a community issue.”

Sample Strategies:

  1. Portland needs government supported early intervention and strengths-based programs for at-risk youth.
  2. "Do something about the homeless - not just kick them out of where I want to be but find a long-term solution to helping them help themselves.”

  1. There should be more stable and equitable funding for social services.
  • Local government and businesses should support social services more.
  • Funders should support service agencies that are following best practices and finding long-term solutions to social issues.
“I would like to see more equitable funding for programs that serve Portland's most vulnerable populations, and more communication between the many diverse communities that live here.”

“[In the future] services are provided in an equitable manner all over the city - things happen not because people in a certain area speak louder, but because needs are higher.”

Sample Strategies:

  1. Businesses should partner with social services to provide more job opportunities to service recipients.

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