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Auditor: Homeless Services wasted money on dangerous housing

June 7, 2022 GMT

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — An investigation report from Portland’s city auditor Tuesday said the Joint Office of Homeless Services is mostly to blame for allowing formerly homeless veterans languish for over a year in moldy, expensive housing units.

The auditor’s investigation started after a tip to the city’s fraud hotline reporting the Joint Office wasted money by continuing to pay to house veterans in the 32-unit Sandy Studios, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported.

The Joint Office of Homeless Services oversees homeless services across Multnomah County in a partnership between the county and Portland city governments.

Auditors concluded although other agencies were involved, the Joint Office should have stepped in much sooner to fix poor conditions or move residents out. Instead, the agency spent over $850,000 to house the veterans before the city condemned the property last year after a ceiling collapsed, revealing black mold, the report said.

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Veterans told OPB that problems from rats to mold to bugs were obvious for years, but maintenance requests were largely ignored.

Interim Joint Office Director Shannon Singleton indicated in response she felt the auditors’ concerns were overblown and that the report failed to take into account the pandemic and ignored that the agency had been trying to remove residents from the buildings since August 2020.

Singleton added that the agency has taken steps to prevent another similar situation, including hiring new more people to help upkeep of facilities.