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PORTLAND TRIBUNE: JAIME VALDEZ - Multnomah County's unopened Wapato jail is equipped to accomodate over 500 people.Multnomah County Commissioner Loretta Smith wants to open the vacant Wapato jail in North Portland to the homeless.


Smith's proposal, posted as an op-ed on the Portland Tribune's website on Thursday, goes against County Chair Deborah Kafoury and a majority of the Portland City Council.

Kafoury has consistently opposed opening Wapato for the homeless and the council is pursuing opening a homeless shelter in a vacant warehouse on industrial land at Terminal 1 in Northwest Portland -- with the potential of creating a permanent homeless multi-service center there in the future, at a cost estimated to be between $60 million and $100 million.

But, in her op-ed, Smith writes, "Wapato is a facility that will not cost $100 million dollars to build. Wapato is a facility that does not come with enormous environmental issues. It is a facility that has the appropriate shower, toilet, kitchen, heating, cooling and community rooms that can serve 500 to 1,000 homeless residents today!"

Wapato was built in North Portland as a medium security jail and substance abuse treatment center for a cost of $58 million. It is designed to house over 500 people and has complete kitchen, medical examination, and classroom facilities. It was never opened because of a lack of operating funds.

Developer Homer Williams has proposed opening a homeless multi-service center at Terminal 1 for a cost he originally estimated at $100 million but later reduced to $60 million. The council on a 3-to-2 vote approved a temporary shelter on the property for up to 18 month while Homer works to raise the money. Residents and businesses in the area oppose both the temporary and permanent proposals.

You can read Smith op-ed at portlandtribune.com/pt/10-opinion/320145-199804-my-view-commissioner-loretta-smith-wants-wapato-open-today

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