The city and county plan to convert a hotel near the Hillsboro Airport into a home for area homeless battling COVID-19.

This story has been updated

PMG PHOTO: GEOFFREY PURSINGER - The Comfort Inn on Cornell Road is being converted into a temporary homeless shelter to combat COVID-19, the city of Hillsboro announced on Thursday.Washington County and the city of Hillsboro are converting a hotel near the Hillsboro Airport into a shelter for area homeless who are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, the city announced on Thursday, April 2.

The city plans to convert the 114-room Comfort Inn & Suites, 3500 N.E. Cornell Road, into a temporary space for people experiencing homelessness who have either tested positive for the disease, or are symptomatic and need to be isolated from others.

"Our community members experiencing homelessness are potentially the most vulnerable among us during the COVID-19 pandemic," said Hillsboro Mayor Steve Callaway. "We are deeply grateful for Washington County's leadership and Comfort Inn & Suites' help in addressing this pressing need to provide safe shelter with coordinated care."

The shelter is the first of its kind for Washington County. Neighboring Multnomah County has so-far converted three hotels and community centers — including the Oregon Convention Center — into temporary shelters for area homeless, who have limited ways of social distancing and maintaining proper hygiene during the COVID-19 crisis.

"All of us are in this crisis together," said Bakulesh 'Buggsi' Patel, CEO of BHG Hotels. "I'm glad we are able to participate with the county, the cities and the social service agencies to offer a partial solution to the serious issue of people needing housing. If we all stick together and give a little, we will prevail over this dangerous situation."

According to Wendy Gordon, a spokeswoman with Washington County, the hotel-shelter is open to homeless individuals who were hospitalized and are being discharged or never required hospitalization. Individuals with confirmed COVID-19 will be housed on a separate floor from those who are symptomatic but without a positive test result. Each individual will be housed in his or her own room.

In a statement, Hillsboro said the shelter will serve as a countywide resource for hospitals and public health authorities to quarantine individuals safely.

"We know this virus has the potential to hit our unhoused communities and other vulnerable populations especially hard," Kathryn Harrington, Washington County board chair, said in a statement. "We are grateful to Comfort Inn & Suites and the city of Hillsboro for partnering with us on what we hope will address a significant need for those experiencing houselessness."

The shelter will be staffed 24 hours per day, and will provide wellness checks, food and support, the city said. The shelter is expected to run through May 31, but may be in place longer if necessary.

Gordon said residents at the shelter will need to be referred by a medical professional.

Editor's Note: This story has been updated with information from Washington County, clarifying who is eligible to stay in the shelter. The shelter is open to individuals experiencing homelessness who have either tested positive for COVID-19 or are symptomatic and need to be isolated from others.

By Geoff Pursinger
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