HUD official to tour Wapato on Monday
The fight to open the never-used Wapato Jail for the homeless is not over yet. An official with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is scheduled to tour the former Multnomah County facility at 1:30 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 2.
The tour was arranged by developer Jordan Schnitzer, who bought the Wapato for $5 million in 2018 and has been trying to open it as a homeless shelter and service center ever since. Inspecting it will be Jeffrey Morris, the administrator of the regional HUD office that serves Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Alaska. According to Schnitzer, Morris is interested in seeing whether Wapato could be used as a HUD pilot project for homeless.
The idea is controversial. Multnomah County officials and homeless service providers oppose opening Wapato for the homeless and President Donald Trump's early-stage initiative to get the homeless of the streets of West Coast cities.
Schnitzer notified Mayor Ted Wheeler, state Rep. Betsy Johnson and several project supporters of the tour in a Nov. 26 email. It reads as follows:
"Last week I received a call from a friend in Los Angeles who is close to secretary of HUD Ben Carson. He indicated that he had been sending Secretary Carson articles about Wapato. Secretary Carson is interested in seeing whether Wapato could be used as a pilot project for homeless and instructed his Chief of Staff to call my Los Angeles friend to see if they could contact us. We since have received a call from Jeff McMorris who is the political appointee of one of HUD's ten regions, the Seattle region. He would like to visit the facility with the head of HUD Portland on Monday, December 2nd at 1:30 p.m. He encouraged me to invite as many supporters of Wapato as possible. Please come and give your thoughts as to why Wapato is important for our community. Furthermore, please feel free to invite others who may be interesting in showing support for this initiative."
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