Jacob Fox is ShelterCare’s newest board member, having assumed his post in June 2016. He is the executive director for the Housing and Community Services Agency (HACSA) of Lane County, our local housing authority. He also serves on the Lane County Poverty and Homelessness Board, the Lane Workforce Partnership Board, the Sacred Heart Medical Center Community Health Board and state, regional and national housing authority industry association boards. A native of Washington, Fox has worked for three different housing agencies, as well as the City of Portland, in a variety of roles. In all, he has dedicated 20 years to serving the needs of low-income individuals and working to expand the availability of affordable housing.
ShelterCare: What attracted you to serving on the ShelterCare board of directors?
Jacob Fox: It is important for all members of the HACSA leadership team to serve on nonprofit boards and help strengthen our community. I was attracted to ShelterCare because of the role that this nonprofit plays in Lane County by linking the two critical ingredients of housing and supportive services for sheltering our community’s most needy citizens. Susan Ban and the ShelterCare leadership team are some of the most innovative people in our community. Plus, I’m honored to serve on a board whose membership includes a diverse, experienced and dedicated group of community leaders.
ShelterCare: HACSCA owns and manages properties for low-income renters and manages the county’s subsidized (Section 8) housing voucher program, but how else can it fight homelessness?
Jacob Fox: Over the past three years HACSA has proactively engaged in community efforts to address poverty and homelessness in Lane County. This leadership role is important because of my experience working on these issues and also because HACSA has tools that no other jurisdiction or nonprofit have. For example, we are working to create the county’s first project-based voucher program, one that sets aside up to 20 percent of our 3,000 Section 8 vouchers for use at projects that house special-needs populations, including the chronically homeless individuals and families. This is a national best practice that has been used to reduce homelessness in other communities.
ShelterCare: What are some of the barriers to expanding the supply of affordable housing in Lane County?
Jacob Fox: Using existing mechanisms, we have the ability to add as many as 60 units of affordable housing per year. But to adequately address individuals and families in poverty or experiencing chronic homelessness we need to build many more than 200 units per year. In addition to dramatically increasing production we must also target new units for homeless and vulnerable households and provide wraparound, supportive services to those households. All those new housing units and services will require dedicated funding—from federal, state and local sources—and we will need our local jurisdictions to dedicate more flexible funding for our efforts. We need affordable housing and supportive services to have the same funding priority that is received by public works projects and public safety.
ShelterCare: You’ve worked on these issues in other communities. What stands out as unique when you consider homelessness in Lane County?
Jacob Fox: Homelessness is being experienced across the nation, but Lane County is uniquely positioned to successfully address the problem. Here, there is a legitimate desire to end homelessness and a vision for how the problem can be solved. Plus, we have elected officials—from both major parties—who care about the issue, and we have very strong nonprofit leadership. The Poverty and Homelessness Board (PHB) is a key to our success. It is a place where good ideas and coordination of efforts are given an opportunity to grow. The [PHB] strategic plan is a good plan, in part because it was informed by and complements the strategic plans developed by local agencies, including HACSA and ShelterCare.
ShelterCare: What solutions to homelessness in Lane County look most promising to you?
Jacob Fox: There is a three-pronged strategy that stands out in my mind. First, the project-based use of Section 8 vouchers that I discussed earlier. Second, the FUSE—Frequent Users System Engagement—outreach program just initiated by Lane County and ShelterCare. And third, the ongoing efforts to link housing and healthcare together. The ShelterCare Medical Recuperation Program is just one example in this area.
ShelterCare: Why do you ShelterCare About Homelessness? Do you have any personal connections to this issue?
Jacob Fox: I come from a family filled with talented and successful people, but like many families we also have members who have experienced homelessness, addiction and mental health challenges. Watching people close to me struggle with these issues led me to my career path and instilled in me a personal passion for helping people. Because I have seen my loved ones struggle I come to work every day on a mission to improve myself and to have the maximum impact I can have on Lane County’s most needy citizens.