Washington County adds third homeless shelter amid outbreak
Several organizations have partnered with the Hillsboro city government to open an emergency shelter for unhoused people during the coronavirus pandemic.
The shelter, which opened Friday, April 17, is located in the Salvation Army of Hillsboro's building at 1440 S.E. 21st Ave. and has the capacity to serve up to 35 individuals through May.
It is the third shelter in Washington County to open for people experiencing homelessness who have not tested positive or exhibited symptoms of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, since cases first appeared.
"During this COVID-19 crisis, people who are living unhoused or in unstable housing are among the most vulnerable community members, said Tami Cockeram, Hillsboro's community services manager, in a statement. "Caring for those who have no place to go is essential to helping ensure the health and safety of our entire community."
The shelter will be staffed by at least two people all hours of each day from Project Homeless Connect, which recently partnered with the Tualatin Hills Park & Recreation District and the nonprofit Community Action to open the county's second shelter at the Elsie Stuhr Center in Beaverton.
Project Homeless Connect staff will provide one hot meal a day, grab-and-go options for breakfast and lunch and support services for housing and employment, among other services.
Kim Marshall, who heads Project Homeless Connect in Washington County, said the shelter has averaged about 20 guests per night since it opened, despite having space for 35. The county's shelter intake phone line refers guests to the shelter to receive a bed.
"Our shelter isn't filled, but we have more people on the waitlist. We're just trying to connect with people who don't have access to a phone," Marshall said, adding that opportunities for unhoused people to charge their phones have substantially diminished since public facilities closed.
People lose their spot on the list for a bed if they fail to show up at the shelter two consecutive nights, Marshall said.
Project Homeless Connect has been operating an outreach team to provide resources to people on the streets and in camps. One of their goals is now to make contact with people who are on the list to receive a shelter bed, Marshall said.
She said the Salvation Army's facility is large enough to accommodate recent changes to guidelines regarding social distancing by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CDC officials now recommend beds in shelters be placed 12 feet apart instead of six feet.
"It gives people a lot of room to be able to spread out and it keeps everyone safe and healthy," Marshall said. "That's our goal — to help lower the curve while we are allowing our friends to be indoors and have some of their basic needs met."
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