A little more than a year after the City Council pulled the plug on the large homeless campus proposed at Terminal 1, the nonprofit organization behind the failed project has announced several other homeless services it is now supporting.
They include a street medicine team pilot program, mobile showers and laundry trucks, and the expansion of a meal program for disadvantaged youths started by Lincoln High School students.
Oregon Harbor of Hope, the nonprofit started by developer Homer Williams to build the campus, made the announcement on Tuesday. Although Williams has not given up on the idea of starting one or more large homeless service centers in the future, he says there is other work to be done now, too.
"This is a crisis of monumental proportions, and no single person or organization can solve this alone," Williams says of what he sees as a growing number of homeless people, including a coming wave of baby boomers who did not prepare for retirement. "One of the things we hope to accomplish is to help fill gaps in services and these three initiatives meet a critical need right now on the streets of our city."
Portland Street Medicine, organized and led by former Legacy Hospital emergency physician William Toepper, started working with other homeless service providers last October. He says Oregon Harbor of Hope helped get the pilot project started.
"Portland is actually late getting a street medicine program started," says Toepper, who retired last year after attending a symposium on it in Allenstown, Pennsylvania. "We have a lot of catching up to do."
Although the pilot program not yet set up to provide medical services, more than 70 doctors, nurses, social workers and community members have signed up. A small team is currently visiting homeless camps and other locations where the homeless gather one day a week to better understand the situation.
By the end of May, two 28-foot-long box trailer trucks will be retrofitted with showers and laundry facilities. Union Gospel Mission will operate the trucks three to four days a week, making scheduled stops at schools, churches and encampments.
Fully equipped, the mobile shower and laundry and shower trucks are valued at more than $330,000. They were donated by Thompson Equipment Corp, with materials and plumbing provided by Parr Lumber, George Morlan Plumbing Supply and Kodiak Plumbing.
"These are basic services that should have been more available a long time ago," says Williams.
Started by student Hank Sanders and 100 fellow Lincoln High School Cardinals in 2016, CardsCooks has partnered with Portland Public Schools, Oregon Food Bank and Clay Street Table to make and serve 25,000 meals in one year for disadvantaged youth. The meal program will be expanded to other area schools as soon as the details can be worked out.
"Hank and the other students are great kids. The homeless are going to need people like that to support them," says Williams.
Williams originally proposed converting an unused warehouse at Terminal 1 into a homeless shelter in July 2016. At the time, the surplus property was in the process of being put up for sale by the Bureau of Environmental Service, which had purchased it from the Port of Portland as a staging area for building the Big Pipe project. The council voted three-to-two to lease the property to him on Aug. 10, 2016.
That was when Toepper first met Williams. The emergency room doctor was planning to help provide medical supplies for the shelter.
But, when Williams was not able to get his plans approved quickly, the council changed its mind and canceled the lease on Nov. 2, 2016. The property was subsequently sold to Lithia Motors for $12.5 million.
Williams did not stop working to provide homeless services, however. He and other officials with Harbor of Hope continued studying what kind of homeless services Portland currently lacks and how to pay for them. The work resulted in the first initiaitives announced on Feb. 13.
Nor has Williams given up on the idea of a large homeless service center. Oregon Harbor of Hope has launched a community-wide fundraising campaign to help defray the costs of the three initiatives and to support the nonprofit's vision to build one or more centers where homeless people can receive the services they need to help stabilize their lives. To learn more and donate, visit www.oregonharborofhope.org.
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