Smith's request for shelter spending review refused
Multnomah County Auditor Steve March has rebuffed a request from Commissioner Loretta Smith to promptly audit how the nonprofit Human Solutions social service agency spent $397,697 provided by the county and Metro to buy and open a now-closed emergency family shelter in a former strip club in Southeast Portland.
"This shelter was supposed to be a safe home for some of our County's most vulnerable families. Instead it turned out to be a house of horrors. And now the County Auditor's office is telling these folks that they don't matter," Smith said of the response.
The shelter was located in the former Woodshed Restaurant and then the Black Cauldron strip club at 16015 S.E. Stark St. The county opened it with much fanfare in February 2016. It was expected to operate for six years and then be replaced by affordable housing.
Instead, a leaky roof caused a partial ceiling collapse Wednesday, prompting the county and Human Solutions to evacuate the 110 children and adults living there on Feb. 7. Human Solution is evaluating the buiding to decide whether it can ever reopen as a shelter.
In a Monday letter to March, Smith requested an accounting for the nearly $400,000 provided to Human Solutions in late 2015 to help buy and renovate the building at Southeast 160th and Stark.
"I now implore you to prioritize the audit of the $372,002 grant from the County that was coupled with a $25,695 grant from Metro to Human Solutions for deferred maintenance on the above-mentioned property. Please provide a detailed line item budget of how these fund were used and along with the originally agreed upon deferred maintenance list," Smith wrote.
March responded by letter the next day. He said his office is already planning to look at the spending in previously scheduled upcoming audit of the Joint Office of Homeless Services, which is funded by Portland and Multnomah County to coordinate and support homeless services.
"Since the request is retrospective in nature, as opposed to a current expenditure we will review it when we conduct the follow up noted in our 2018 Audit Schedule," March wrote.
Speaking to the Portland Tribune, March said county officials should focus more on serving the families evacuated from the shelter than determining how the money was spent more than two years ago at this time.
You can read a previous Portland Tribune story on the shelter at portlandtribune.com/pt/9-news/386578-276414-shelter-closure-worsens-homeless-crisis