County board approves lease for controversial homeless shelter
Despite concerns from residents, the Multnomah County Commissioners passed the controversial Southeast Portland homeless shelter Thursday afternoon with a 4-1 vote.
The vote came after another community meeting was held earlier in the day. It will be on Southeast Foster Road and 61st, and is scheduled to open in the summer or fall of this year with about 100 to 120 beds.
Dozens of people signed up to testify at the commission hearing. The majority of the people at the hearing live in the neighborhood and voiced their concerns.
What many are upset about is what they feel is a lack of transparency on this process. They don't feel there's been proper engagement with the public.
"I've spoken to 50 homeowners," Michael Vevera said. "None are in favor of this shelter because you gave up the opportunity to be transparent and reach out to us. Now you want to railroad this down our throats."
Commissioner Loretta Smith agreed with that and called it "unconscionable." She also questioned whether the cost figures provided by county staff were accurate.
The common thread among those testifying was that, while something should be done to help the homeless, they don't think this shelter in this location is the answer.
"There are no social services, there are no food banks or kitchens, there are no medical services, there are no mental health services, there are no substance abuse services and there is no police precinct at this location," one woman told the commissioners. "It is bound to fail those it is intended to serve."
But homeowner Amber Kelly said, "I understand my neighbors' concerns about family, but these folks are my family. They are already our neighbors and part of our neighborhood."
The county said the facility will have bathrooms, a kitchen and provide housing and job services in the building for people staying there. It will also be pet-friendly.
Organizers said this shelter is necessary because the homeless population is already large in that area. Commissioners were told if they didn't move forward now they would have lost the location.
While the neighborhood may not like the location, advocates for the shelter said it's far better than letting people die on the streets.
KOIN 6 News is a news partner of the Portland Tribune. You can read their version at www.koin.com/news/civic-affairs/se-foster-residents-homeless-shelter-bound-to-fail/939087469.