Navigation and Outreach Teams

These teams take a services-first approach to high-impact campsites. They work to connect campers to resources in an effort to disrupt the continuing cycle of cleaning and removing camps, only to see them return soon after.

Because of our community’s growing gap between housing costs and incomes, Portland has seen an increase in homelessness and housing insecurity. That’s led to an increase in visible camping — even though Portland and Multnomah County have tripled shelter bed capacity since 2015.

Current outreach teams know that many vulnerable people live in these encampments. And as an encampment grows, the potential for health and safety issues affecting campers and neighbors also grows. That’s why the Portland/Multnomah County Joint Office of Homeless Services and three nonprofit service providers - Transition Projects, Mental Health & Addiction Association of Oregon and Central City Concern - launched a new Navigation Team in early 2019. Additionally, a team of City-employed outreach staff was formed in 2023.

“Navigation” from the streets to services

  • These multi-disciplinary teams of outreach workers, social workers and clinical professionals assess each unsheltered person and their needs.
  • The teams offer access to services including shelter, health supports (medical, mental health, substance use), transportation assistance, identification and benefits assistance, and housing and rental assistance.
  • The work requires repeated engagement and can take weeks or months. The goal is to give people time to meet and build trusting relationships with staff who can help them reconnect with and receive services.

How locations are chosen.

  • The City's Homelessness and Urban Camping Impact Reduction Program (IRP), which fields and monitors reports of high-impact campsites, identifies the sites where the Navigation Team and City Outreach Team are needed most.
  • Decisions are guided by IRP data about a camp’s size, geographic area, health/safety concerns, etc.
  • Factors also include a site’s risk assessment score and whether there’s a pattern of re-encampment after cleanup efforts.

One part of a bigger picture

  • The Navigation Team and City Outreach teams are part of a much larger set of strategies for helping provide housing opportunities and services to people who are unsheltered, while also addressing the impacts of unsanctioned camping. These two teams are among a large network of service providers working across Portland and Multnomah County.
  • Shelter is an important, transitional safe place for people experiencing homelessness, and JOHS and the City are expanding access. JOHS now supports a maximum capacity of nearly 2,000 shelter beds, motel rooms and sleeping units – up from 650 total in 2015. The City has also invested in its own Shelter Services, with 8 Safe Rest Village and Temporary Alternative Shelter sites currently in operation, offering capacity for 486 temporary, transitional shelter sleeping units.
  • Permanent housing is the ultimate goal for everyone. The City and County are committed to building more affordable housing and supportive housing options to move more people off the streets, out of temporary shelters, and into stable, permanent housing. You can read more about JOHS housing development here.
  • While work to bring more people indoors and into housing is ongoing, The City of Portland has significantly expanded its capacity to address the public health and sanitation issues connected to unsanctioned encampments. It provides mobile assessment and cleanup services, and cleaned and removed over 5,000 reported camps across the City in 2023.

To view some of the outcomes data of the Navigation Teams work, please visit our outcomes data page here.

If you have additional questions about the Navigation Team and its work, contact