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Property owners near the shelter filed a lawsuit in March seeking to stop the facility from opening.

COURTESY PHOTO: MULTNOMAH COUNTY - A new homeless shelter located at 120 S.E. Market St. in Portland has received pushback from nearby property owners.A new homeless shelter has opened in central southeast Portland despite pushback from nearby property owners and a legal complaint aiming to stop the shelter from opening.

The shelter at 120 S.E. Market St. opened as a 24-hour low-barrier facility with capacity for 125 people on Monday, May 9, officials with Portland and Multnomah County's Joint Office of Homeless Services announced.

Surrounding the shelter is the Electric Blocks, a cluster of office buildings built between 2015 and 2017 that are owned by developer Killian Pacific. The company is currently overseeing the planning and construction of two additional buildings in the area.

According to a complaint filed in Multnomah County Circuit Court in March, county officials skirted the required public engagement process and flouted zoning rules by siting the Market Street building for long-term use as a shelter. The complaint was first reported by KGW News.

Referring to the ongoing litigation, Denis Theriault, spokesman for the joint office, declined to answer questions about what land use codes permitted officials to site the building as a shelter. The county has complied with all applicable laws, he said.

The shelter will initially serve 40 people, and additional guests will be brought in gradually until the shelter reaches its 125-person capacity, officials said. People 55 and older or those with disabilities will be prioritized for beds at the shelter.

Homeless service provider All Good Northwest is operating the shelter with support from the joint office. Case management, housing navigation and behavioral health support services are available from onsite staff, officials said.

"This shelter will make an immediate difference for dozens of vulnerable neighbors — offering not just a place to sleep, but also a community and wraparound services that offer a chance to build stability and find wellness," said Andy Goebel, director of All Good Northwest.

The legal challenge by the shelter's neighbors comes as joint office officials look to continue creating new shelters using unprecedented funding to address an ongoing homelessness crisis. Recently released data show the number of people living outside substantially increased since before the pandemic.

COURTESY PHOTO: MULTNOMAH COUNTY - Cots and lockers for personal belongings at a new shelter in central southeast Portland that opened Monday, May 9.The opening of the shelter shows that county officials are willing to move forward with a planned shelter while facing a legal challenge.

Four subsidiary companies of Killian Pacific that own the Electric Blocks were named as plaintiffs in the complaint. Multnomah County, the joint office and Summit Properties, Inc., the company leasing the shelter building to the county, were named as defendants.

The plaintiffs will lose millions of dollars in investments in the area if the county moves forward with opening the shelter, according to the complaint.

"Tenants will leave. New tenants will not come. Development of the Electric Blocks will stop. Plaintiffs' investment will be lost. And the Electric Blocks will cease to exist," the complaint reads.

The shelter will constitute a public and private nuisance as outdoor showers and toilets will create "noxious odors," the plaintiffs allege. They say the shelter will allow for the "stacking of garbage, needles, makeshift beds, water bottles, food wrappers, and other waste" in the area.

The plaintiffs further allege that the shelter is prohibited within Portland's general industrial zone, which covers the area.

Additionally, the county failed to adequately give public notice and host meetings about the proposed shelter in accordance with state public meetings law and the county's charter, according to the complaint.

Separately, the Central Eastside Industrial Council, a coalition of businesses and property owners in the area, criticized the joint office for not being transparent about its plans in a March letter to county and Portland officials.

The council asked for the county to pause the development of the shelter until members could sufficiently review plans, adding that a permanent congregate shelter would not be suitable for the building.

"The proposed warehousing of shelter occupants is misaligned with the County's stated housing goals," wrote Eric Cress, the council's board president, in the letter.

Cress said the county ignored a two-year process the council and other stakeholders previously engaged in to find a suitable location for a shelter in the area.

The council still recognizes the need for a shelter in central southeast Portland, said Cress in a statement received after this story was published. He added that the council has been working with the joint office to establish a good neighbor agreement with All Good Northwest.

"We encourage the county to be transparent about the intended use of this shelter and confirm it is a temporary solution during a moment of much needed shelter beds and housing," Cress said.

Reached for comment Tuesday, May 10, Adam Tyler, president of Killian Pacific, declined to comment on the ongoing litigation.

Tyler said Killian Pacific officials have engaged with the county about the shelter and are supportive of it "as an emergency solution to temporarily house those who need urgent shelter now."

"We do not, however, believe the site is well-suited as a permanent shelter," he said. "We are working, in collaboration with the (joint office), towards a more optimal permanent solution."

Tyler also previously said he was supportive of a shelter located in the area with better access to transit and other services.

COURTESY PHOTO: MULTNOMAH COUNTY - Supplies stored at a new homeless shelter in central southeast Portland.The county signed a three-year lease of the building at the end of last year. The building is expected to remain a shelter during the lease, Theriault said.

Officials initially used the building as a severe weather shelter during winter storms in December and February.

The county then began renovating the building to prepare it for longer-term use. Additional renovations are expected to continue, officials say.

Shelter guests will have access to onsite hygiene services, laundry and lockers where they can store belongings. Pets are permitted.

The joint office plans to transition the shelter to a women-only facility when the renovations are completed.

For more information about the shelter, visit the county's website.


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