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Councilors want to ensure the city's first-ever permanent shelter is integrated with the community.

Beaverton this week adopted new guidelines for a permanent homeless shelter location, with the aim of starting a "neighborhood collaborative."

Councilor Nadia Hasan characterized the approach as one where the city governments works "in partnership with the neighbors to ensure the needs of the communities are being met, because for us to get this right in Beaverton, it's gonna take many, many partners."

The Beaverton City Council met to adopt the guidelines on Tuesday, Nov. 9.

Although it's the second-largest city in Washington County and one of Portland's largest suburbs, Beaverton does not yet have a permanent overnight shelter for unhoused members of the community.

A winter shelter will open at the Beaverton Community Shelter on Nov. 15 until March, but it only has capacity for 30 adults.

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.

After receiving this "once-in-a-generation" money in 2020 to build a new shelter, Beaverton city councilors say they not only want to fill the need of much-needed services, they also want to make sure the shelter is something that is "embraced by the community."

Councilors adopted the guidelines following a work session in September at which a panel of Washington County homeless service experts provided 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, particularly when the site locations will remain confidential until selected, which is something that troubled Councilor Allison Tivnon.

"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," Tivnon said at a previous work session.

City staff will now spend the next couple months identifying possible sites that meet the adopted criteria.

Beaverton senior project manager Sarah King recommended during a previous work session that the building be large enough to accommodate both sleeping and communal space. The minimum, she said, should be 5,500 square feet.

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. A bigger space would be ideal, though, councilors said.

Councilors also recommended that staff broaden the search criteria to include both standalone and attached buildings.

"I think we understand (standalone) might be ideal, but I wouldn't want to limit what we look at in how we site or or even select sites based on only standalone," said Councilor Mark Fagin. "You can think of a number of examples where maybe there's an office in the front that could be a support service, and there could be room in the back of a site where this would be suitable or maybe even ideal."

While Mayor Lacey Beaty supports the idea of having a site that's well-integrated in the community, she wants to ensure both neighbors and community members using shelters services keep their "dignity."

"I won't be voting for a site that is co-located in a living environment where other people are in very, very, very close proximity and living on top, or have to go through a joint door or something like that," she said.


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