Bobby Weinstock, longtime housing advocate at Northwest Pilot Project, died peacefully at home on August 31, 2022. The cause was cancer.
We remember Bobby as a beloved friend, an innovative thinker, and a tireless champion for people experiencing homelessness and housing instability. All are welcome to remember Bobby at a Celebration of Life event at the Aladdin Theater on Sunday, October 23 at 1 pm.
Bobby joined Northwest Pilot Project in 1989 as the agency’s first housing placement specialist. His charge was to develop a program that would serve homeless people and emphasize permanent housing. As Bobby wrote in 2000, this moment was “an historic shift away from focusing on emergency Bandaid-type services and towards providing assistance emphasizing permanent housing solutions.” Bobby stayed at Northwest Pilot Project for 32 years, becoming the housing program manager and then our first housing advocate before retiring in July 2021.
“I believe in housing solutions that create permanent, dignified, affordable housing,” he told Street Roots in 2021. “For most homeless people, this means the opportunity to obtain a modest, low-rent apartment. For low-income renters barely able to afford their current apartments, this means help to bridge the gap between their income and the rent.”
Bobby’s vision had long been to develop a locally funded and managed rent assistance voucher program. In 2018, Northwest Pilot Project received funding from Meyer Memorial Trust to bring together key partners in an 18-month pilot to demonstrate that rental vouchers could be funded with local resources and managed by the local housing authority. Multnomah County’s Joint Office of Homeless Services, Home Forward, and other partners joined NWPP in achieving a successful outcome with the Long-Term Rent Assistance program (LRA). The project also showed that local level decision making could cut red tape out of the voucher application process. The program’s third-party evaluator CORE (Center for Outcomes, Research, and Education) deemed it a success, with almost all participants reporting that “not worrying about making rent” gave them peace of mind and drastically improved mental health, and decreased stress levels.
LRA became the model for both a statewide rent assistance pilot for at-risk youth and the Regional Long-Term Rent Assistance program launched in July 2021 as part of the Supportive Housing Services (SHS) measure. In the first year of SHS funding in the Metro region, over 700 “Bobby vouchers” prevented low-income tenants from eviction, and helped homeless people access an affordable apartment.
Bobby was an effective advocate for people experiencing homelessness because of his persistence, his exceptional understanding of housing policy, his tremendous powers of persuasion, and his brilliance in systems thinking. Above all, as former Northwest Pilot Project board chair A.C. Caldwell said, “Bobby is the most compassionate person I have ever met. There may be other reasons he has done the work he has done in his lifetime—his sense of justice, his desire to make complex systems easy for people to navigate, his deep desire to do good in the work—but witnessing his compassion for others, especially those in need, is truly transforming.”
We will all miss Bobby very much. But we can turn our grief into action and honor his memory by continuing his work. As he wrote in our newsletter in Winter 1994, the available data on homelessness support policies that vastly increase the supply of subsidized housing, target housing subsidies to households experiencing or at imminent risk of homelessness, the prioritization of funds for small, project-based subsidized buildings composed of self-contained apartments, and a focus on the creation of permanent subsidized rental housing rather than emergency shelter or transitional facilities. Many years later, we need strong voices to remind us of this vision more than ever.
You can support that vision by donating to Northwest Pilot Project in Bobby’s memory. Together, we can continue Bobby’s legacy and achieve the goal of a community with abundant affordable housing for everyone.