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The low-barrier shelter should at least be 5,500 square feet, per staff recommendation.

PMG PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Traci Miller, a staff member at the Good Neighbor Center, sorts through food that was donated to the Tigard homeless shelter. , Beaverton Valley Times - News The COVID-19 pandemic means shelters for unhoused individuals have taken steps to keep staff and patrons safe. County shelters deal with staff shortages, new requirements to serve people in need

Beaverton is getting "once-in-a-generation funding" to build its first permanent shelter, but finding a location is its own challenge.

Over the next month or so, the Beaverton City Council will be setting guidelines for where a permanent shelter will go, and what it will look like.

In May 2020, voters in the Metro area approved a tax estimated to raise $2.5 billion for homeless services over the next decade. That came less than two years after Metro voters approved a $652.8 million bond to build more affordable housing across the region.

While the city does provide a temporary winter shelter and some day-time resources, there currently is nowhere in Beaverton for unhoused people to go for the majority of the year.

"I've gotten probably 10 emails this week about houseless community members, and it's challenging, from my perspective, to talk to community members because we don't have anywhere to point people," said Beaverton Mayor Lacey Beaty during a work session on Tuesday, Nov. 2.

During a work session in September, a panel of Washington County homeless service experts gave councilors advice on what to to consider when choosing a building for shelter and choosing a site. The main takeaways: There is no perfect site or building, so don't wait; people need access to doctors, public transit and support services, no matter the location; and cultivating good-neighbor partnerships is essential.

When talking about engaging with neighbors, Beaverton City Councilor Nadia Hasan said she wants to be intentional with how city officials talk to people.

"I think that it would be a disservice if we cause more harm to communities that are already struggling or have already had so much to struggle with," she said, adding that it's "something for us to be really mindful of as we're thinking of this building and the site selection."

Potential sites will remain confidential during the early selection process in order to keep sensitive real estate transaction information private, which is something that worries Councilor Allison Tivnon.

While staff have expressed that they are currently sketching out a public engagement plan, Tivnon noted that the lack of outreach before the selection of the site is a concern.

"I just would hate to see this be a conversation that is so far down the road with the community wing and that the site's already locked in, the neighborhood has been determined, and no one within that neighborhood and no one in the community at large has had any kind of insights or feedback," she said.

Because homelessness is just as much a regional issue as it is a Beaverton one, Washington County will also be a partner in the overall project, said Beaverton senior project manager Sarah King during Tuesday's work session. She said the county recommends Beaverton build a low-barrier shelter that can serve between 50 and 60 adults.

While the new shelter should be "well-integrated" into the community and not in an isolated location, King recommended that a standalone building should have some setbacks from neighbors for shelter and resident privacy. The building should also be accessible for people using wheelchairs

King recommended that the building be large enough to accommodate both sleeping and communal space. The minimum, she said, should be 5,500 square feet.

"Although there's not a whole lot on the market," she said. "We may even look for sites that have buildings that are a little less than that."

The 5,550-square-foot minimum is an estimate city staff calculated based on how large the Beaverton Community Center is, which is about 7,000 square feet.

"We don't want to look at 1,200-square-foot buildings that's just too small. So it was a bit of what we think is a minimum that we could look at that wouldn't require too much of a major remodel, but honestly, it was a bit of a guess," King said.

King said the criteria is intentionally broad in order to cast a wider net for potential site locations.

"We know that support services are going to be really key," she said. "We also know that an exam room or clinic where there is a medical component is also going to be an important part of this. And whether we can find a building that is set up or large enough for that, we don't know, but we definitely know that those are going to be in the program."

Councilors will meet again on Tuesday, Nov. 9, to adopt specific criteria for the new shelter and site.


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