Portland and Multnomah County have agreed to pay $1 million of the operating costs of the homeless shelter and navigation center being planned near the Old Town/Chinatown neighborhood.
The 100-bed facility was first proposed by Oregon Harbor of Hope, a nonprofit organization started by developer Homer Williams, in April 2018. Columbia Sportswear CEO Tim Boyle pledged $1.5 million towards its construction at the time. At that time, it was thought the facility would open by Thanksgiving.
But the estimated cost of building the facility climbed to $3.5 million in the following months, in part because of unexpectedly large cleanup costs for the property, which is owned by Prosper Portland, the city's economic development agency formerly known as the Portland Development Commission.
The city-county contribution was announced by the Joint Office of Homeless Services on Monday, Jan. 14.
"Our elected leaders and service providers don't get enough credit for their success in adding hundreds of shelter beds across our community," Williams said in the announcement. "It's difficult and expensive to find and invest in good sites, close to the right services. We're grateful for our deepening partnership with the Joint Office, and we're excited we can keep working to make a difference in hundreds of lives."
The navigation center is now expected to open in a tent-like structure north of the Broadway Bridge on Southwest Naito
Parkway as soon as June 1. In a model new to Multnomah County, it will offer limited-term shelter for 100 people a night, alongside intensive case management, to help clients return to stable housing as soon as possible.
The facility will also provide laundry and shower facilities, among other services. Transition Projects, an experienced shelter and housing services provider that already works closely with the Joint Office, will operate the site in partnership with Harbor of Hope.
"Shelter saves lives and keeps people safe. But let's never forget that the only thing that actually ends someone's homelessness is a home," County Chair Deborah Kafoury said. "That's the promise of this navigation center and the full suite of services it will offer. It's not enough to get someone inside a few nights. We need them inside, in homes of their own, each and every night."
Mayor Ted Wheeler said he hopes other businesses will follow the examples set by Williams and Boyle.
"To sustain our effective and compassionate response to this housing crisis, we need more partnerships like this one," Mayor Ted Wheeler said. "Kudos to Harbor of Hope and the business community for stepping up with this big investment and their commitment to ongoing involvement. This shows the power of public-private collaboration."
Despite its cost, the cleanup plan for the facility is being challenged by another developer. Jim Winkler has appealed the plan approved by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality to the Oregon Court of Appeals, saying it is not as thorough as the one the state required for adjoining properties. Although Winkler owns an undeveloped lot adjacent to the site, he says he in concerned about the health of the homeless people and workers at the planned facility.
The JOHS is also working to open a new 120-bed shelter on Foster Road as soon as this summer. Transition Projects will operate that shelter and provide housing and health services.
According to the JOHS, last fiscal year, more than 8,700 people accessed at least one night in a shelter, double the number four years before. At the same time, nearly 6,000 people were helped out of homelessness back into housing, also nearly double the number of people housed four years ago.
You can read a previous Portland Tribune story about the issue here.
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