Talks continue to make sure the new Foster Shelter won't impact the community

DAVID F. ASHTON - The Foster Shelter Steering Committee meetings have moved to the Brentwood Darlington Community Center for the summer - where the focus is on creating a Good Neighbor Agreement. After the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners voted to sign a lease on a property located at 6144 S.E. Foster Road to be used as a shelter, funded by the Joint Office of Homeless Services and run by Transition Projects, the "Foster Shelter Steering Committee" was established to assure that all neighbors and partners would have a "seat at the table" during the planning process.

The former Winley Market building on S.E. Foster Road stands empty and unaltered, although large-scale remodeling of the Assembly Brewing Company building next door is now underway.

Starting with a May 29 meeting, and throughout the summer, the Steering Committee's meetings have been moved to the Brentwood Darlington Community Center.

"I'm the representative for our neighborhood association, and I have the key to the building; I'm here to help setup and breakdown," smiled Brentwood Darlington Neighborhood Association (BDNA) Chair Chelsea Powers, as representatives gathered for the meeting.

"The BDNA Board is a neutral party, and has not taken a position for or against the shelter," Powers said. "We're participating in this to make this the best for every neighborhood."

The other neighborhood associations represented on the Steering Committee are Foster-Powell, Mt. Scott-Arleta, and Woodstock.

"Tonight is the night we begin work on the 'Good Neighbor Agreement'; the communities' voices are vital in terms of helping to say what the expectations are from the shelter," said Multnomah County Commissioner, District 3, Jessica Vega Pederson.

"Communities want to make sure that their priorities and values are stated in the agreement, as the process goes forward," Vega Pederson told THE BEE.

Other homeless shelters in the city have established a Good Neighbor Agreement, Vega Pederson remarked, so this Steering Committee has the benefit of seeing previously drafted agreements.

The Willamette Shelter in Westmoreland – run by the same organization as will the Foster shelter, Transition Projects, and run in the same manner – has not posed any issues for the neighborhood, and SMILE – the Sellwood-Westmoreland neighborhood association – has not, to date, had any cause to seek such an agreement.

Such an agreement isn't legally enforceable, Vega Pederson acknowledged. "But what it does do is add clarity to the operating procedures that the shelter would have, anyway," she said. "And, this is to really make sure that there is no misunderstanding about what the community's desires and expectations are around the shelter."

Once the agreement has been drafted and approved, "there still will be several months before the shelter's opening, so there is more time to establish the relationships that will be so important once the shelter is open," Pederson said.

During the meeting, after the welcome and introductions, April Rohman, the Emergency Shelter & Services Coordinator at "A Home for Everyone" in the Joint Office of Homeless Services, presented an outline of the themes of the meeting.

Then Transition Projects' Stacy Borke gave a PowerPoint "day in the life" presentation of what typically goes on in such shelters.

Sylvia Ciborowski of JLA Public Involvement and Stacy Borke then gave an overview of Good Neighbor Agreement process – after which those present broke into small discussion groups.

The result was a six-page draft Good Neighbor Agreement – with provisions for promoting client safety, and encouraging guests to be "good neighbors" in terms of littering, smoking, gathering in large groups outside the shelter, and creating a timely way for "comments" made by the staff and customers of the 7-Eleven store, situated in the same plaza, to be addressed.

Renovation costs escalate

Although not in the purview of the Steering Committee, "A Home for Everyone" – led by an executive committee made up of elected officials from Portland, Multnomah County, and Gresham, and Home Forward (formerly the Housing Authority of Portland) – revealed that the cost of turning the Foster Road storefront into a homeless shelter has increased by more than $1 million since the lease was authorized.

On June 12, an unnamed spokesperson for "A Home for Everyone" said that the cost estimate is now $3 million for renovation, blaming higher construction costs and labor shortages. "But the cost also reflects contingency funding, and efforts to add amenities and features in response to community feedback," the spokesperson said.

The increase will buy upgrades for the 120-bed shelter – such as a recreational courtyard, including landscaping and fencing "designed to increase privacy and offer residents a comfortable and attractive place to be outside". Other upgrades include sleeping area improvements, and a full-service commercial kitchen.

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