Metro and Multnomah County are working to turn the Oregon Convention Center into a 130-bed homeless shelter during the COVID-19 crisis.
Metro owns the large visitor facility at 777 N.E. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. that is losing reservations because of the spread of the novel coronavirus, which causes the potentially deadly disease. No events since March 12, when Gov. Kate Brown announced an executive order to ban gatherings of more than 250 people.It is unclear when she will lift the resriction.
Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury announced last week that the Joint Office of Homeless Service is planning to soon create hundreds of new shelter beds for the homeless. The first 120 beds are expected to open Thursday night at North Portland's Charles Jordan Community Center, owned by Portland Parks and Recreation.
"Metro has been working hard to make sure our region's homeless population has access to the services they need," Metro Council President Lynn Peterson said on Thursday, March 19. "With the resources we have, this was a common-sense arrangement."
The sleeping arrangements and other services offered in center is intended to help maintain shelter capacity in the ounty at a time when shelters need to space out their existing beds to meet social distancing guidelines.
The Oregon Convention Center was opened in 1991 and is a major economic driver for the Portland region. With nearly 1 million square feet of space, it is the largest convention center in the state. An adjacent Hyatt Regency headquarters hotel partly funded by Metro just opened.
"Portland was firmly established as a premier convention and visitor destination before this crisis that faces us today," said Oregon Convention Center Director Craig Stroud. "We are fully confident that we can return our world-class level of service after the health crisis we face is over. And, while it will take time we will also reach full economic recovery."
It is unclear how soon after Brown lifts her ban on large gatherings that the center could reopen for conventions, especially if many of those staying there are ill and have nowhere else to go.
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