East Multnomah County is receiving a Project Turnkey grant of nearly $7 million to acquire and convert a 75-room motel into a COVID-respite shelter for anyone needing a roof over their head.
The funds were awarded by the Oregon Community Foundation to Rockwood Community Development Corporation, which will helm the new shelter in north Rockwood. It will open this summer as an active shelter for people experiencing or at-risk of homelessness, with plans to open the remaining rooms to the most vulnerable community members through the pandemic.
"The Project Turnkey-Gresham will help East Multnomah County rise to the incredible challenge we're currently facing," said Brad Ketch, chairman of the Rockwood CDC. "We look forward to lifting up community members in need — not only with shelter, but with culturally competent services."
Long term the Rockwood CDC will renovate the property to provide transitional housing.
"I firmly believe this is an innovative solution to the issues we are facing," said Mayor Travis Stovall. "The eastside has seen a lack of investment for many years from the state and county."
The shelter will provide safe accommodation for up to 75 individuals or families. There will be access to meals, clothing, and essentials such as showers, laundry and hygiene items. The plan is to also have wraparound services to help the community members move from crisis to stability.
"This Project Turnkey grant will provide a much needed lifeline for underprivileged children and families and other vulnerable community members," said Lynn Ketch, Wallace Medical board president and Rockwood CDC executive director.
Normally to fill the shelter, Rockwood CDC would reach out to the Oregon Department of Human Services. But since the onset of the pandemic, things have been different. East Multnomah County community organizations and nonprofit groups have broken down siloed approaches to supporting vulnerable populations — a trend the Rockwood CDC wants to utilize for this new shelter.
"We want to offer these rooms as an asset to nonprofits who are connected to and work with families and individuals across the region," Brad Ketch said.
This is the same approach the Rockwood CDC has been utilizing throughout the pandemic. In the last 15 months the organization has delivered food boxes accounting for 575,640 meals; shared almost $1.5 million worth of masks and sanitizers; and through a partnership with Wallace Medical has administered nearly 1,500 drive-up vaccinations.
The Rockwood CDC sees the future shelter rooms as another resource to share among the East County organizations.
"For decades East County has had to solve our own problems without enough resources," Brad Ketch said. "To move the community forward you have to think holistically."
One of those partners is the Reynolds School District, which serves about 1,000 homeless students every year.
"Providing stable housing and related trauma-informed services as a base is critical for our ability as a school district to be able to support those students through their growth in learning," said Reynolds Superintendent Dana Diaz.
The Oregon Legislature allocated $65 million for Project Turnkey to acquire motels/hotels for use as shelters. The funds are being administered through an application process.
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