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The American Rescue Plan will help fund the HomePlate Youth Services center for Washington County's unhoused youth.

COURTESY PHOTO: HOMEPLATE YOUTH SERVICES - Renderings of a 6,000-square-foot building to serve as HomePlate Youth Service's drop-in center for unhoused youth in Washington County. The new facility will be located  at 12685 S.W. Fourth St. in Beaverton.

As Oregon's continues to contend with a rising unhoused population, a Beaverton nonprofit serving some of Washington County's most vulnerable is getting $1.5 million through a federal COVID-19 relief package.

The money from President Joe Biden's pandemic recovery plan, known as the American Rescue Plan, will go toward renovating a 6,000-square-foot building to serve as a drop-in center for homeless youth.

HomePlate Youth Services provides resources and shelter for citizens between the ages of 12 and 24 who are homeless or are facing housing instability.

The Beaverton School District, the state's third-largest K-12 district, has the most homeless students in Oregon, according to the Oregon Department of Education.

Portland-area lawmakers divvied up $240 million in federal funds from the American Rescue Plan. The $1.9 trillion coronavirus rescue package reserved $5 billion alone for emergency housing projects.

COURTESY PHOTO: HOMEPLATE YOUTH SERVICES - Youth painting wooden houses as part of HomePlate's 'It Takes A Village' employment program in the nonprofit's workshop space at the Beaverton First United Methodist Church. HomePlate creates villages out of the painted houses and sells them, giving youth facing homelessness an opportunity to earn money and gain job skills.

Washington County received a total of $27.9 million for projects that bolster more services like emergency housing, health clinics and community centers.

"The main reason why people specifically are in this (housing instability) is because of a lack of affordable housing, and living wage jobs," HomePlate executive director Bridget Calfee said. "It makes it very difficult to maintain a job and or maintain going to school.

"So, it's really structural issues of why people are in this situation."

The pandemic only further aggravated this problem, Calfee added.

HomePlate's new drop-in facility will offer hot meals, a place to shower, and resources for employment and stable housing.

Right now, HomePlate operates several rental properties throughout Washington County. The new Beaverton campus, however, will be permanent.

"The main purpose is really just to build those connections for young people that don't have a safe place to go to find out about resources," Calfee said. "We can be there with them to navigate resources."

The new building, located at 12685 S.W. Fourth St. in Beaverton, will also be large enough to serve more people than HomePlate can currently accommodate at a facility it's been renting, while also adhering to COVID-19 social distancing protocols, Calfee said.

The rented space "was just too small for COVID protocols, so we've been serving youth out the back door, in a to-go model," Calfee said.

While that service is better than nothing, it lacks the "personal touch" that HomePlate prefers to provide.

"It's impacted our ability to create those relationships that help make the change and return us to stability," Calfee explained.

The estimated cost to acquire the property, renovate the space and expand programming is $5 million, Calfee said. Since the federal infusion of $1.5 million won't even cover half that amount, the nonprofit is working to raise an additional $3.5 million. So far, it has raised more than $2 million, Calfee said — leaving $1.5 million more to go.

The federal funding came "at the perfect time," Calfee said.

"We're super-grateful," she said. "It was really amazing and launched us to a place of being able to do this very quickly."

Visit HomePlate's website to learn more or to donate to the campaign for the new drop-in center.

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