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Backers use video to make last-ditch plea for support to use former jail as a homeless shelter and treatment center

PMG FILE PHOTO - The never-used former Wapato Jail in North Portland.A group of developers, social service providers, neighborhood activists and law enforcement officials are making a last-ditch effort to open the never-used Wapato Jail as a homeless service center.

As first reported by the Oregonian, they have posted a 10-minute video online urging elected and other leaders to help them open it as a community wellness center proving addiction and mental health treatment services.

Those appearing in the video include: developer Jordan Schnitzer, who owns the facility; Volunteers of America President and CEO Kay Toran, who says her organization would run the center; Portland Police Association President Daryl Turner; who says police officers currently can only take someone experiencing a mental crisis to an emergency room; and Montavilla neighborhood activist Angela Todd, who says such a center could help treat the many causes of homelessness.

"We are all astonished the city has had this facility and has not figured out how to use it when we have people living on the streets," said Jordan, who predicts he will have to demolish it within the next few months if it cannot be repurposed.

It is not clear who the video is aimed at. The Oregonian reports Mayor Ted Wheeler has already met with representatives of Volunteers of America. But Multnomah County recently purchased a vacant downtown building for a similar purpose and is in the process of identifying the funds needed to convert it. County leaders opposed using Wapato for homeless services before they sold it last year, in part because it is far from existing social service agencies downtown.

As pointed out in the video, county voters approved a $58 million bond measure to build the facility, which can house, feed and serve hundreds of people. But it was never opened and the county sold it last year for $5 million.

Also appearing in the video are developer Homer Williams and consultant Don Mazziotti of Oregon Harborof Hope, which recently completed construction of a homeless shelter and navigation center near the southern end of the Broadway Bridge.

You can see the video here.

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