Just Compassion of East Washington County recently got a huge shot in the arm: $4 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to aid the nonprofit organization in its quest to help out homeless shelters in Beaverton and Tigard.
That includes funding that will help to construct a new facility next to Just Compassion's resource center on Southwest Hall Boulevard, or state Highway 141, in Tigard.
"It's beyond decent," said Vernon Baker, Just Compassion's executive director, of the contribution. "It's a wonderful opportunity that we will have to definitely really make an impact in our area in terms of providing some additional services including transitional housing to those who are (unhoused)."
The funding was steered to Just Compassion by local lawmakers, out of the allocation available for the Oregon Legislature to direct to local governments and nonprofits. That included $2 million from Sen. Ginny Burdick, $1.5 million from Rep. Dacia Grayber and $500,000 from Rep. Courtney Neron, all of whom represent parts of Tigard in the Legislature.
Tigard Mayor Jason Snider had previously announced the funding at a mayors' gathering, praising Grayber in particular, whom he said helped led the charge to secure the money for Just Compassion.
Currently, Just Compassion owns a home at 12280 S.W. Hall Blvd. that was converted into a daily resource center several years ago, providing a place for those without permanent housing to grab breakfast or lunch, get out of the weather, find mental health services, or search for jobs.
The organization also owns, and rents out, an adjacent house.
"That will be where we will be erecting the new building on that particular part of the property," Baker said about that house, which is currently occupied.
Baker said Just Compassion will do everything it can to support the current tenants in that house and help them relocate when the time comes.
He said the organization is several months away from any physical construction taking place.
While Just Compassion's board of directors is still trying to determine how services will be divided between the two buildings, Baker said the lion's share of the nonprofit's services "will transition once the new building is complete, but we will definitely continue to use our current location for some services."
That new building, he said, will likely contain some type of multipurpose areas that could include space to allow for overnight shelter stays. The current Just Compassion Resource Center serves as an overnight shelter during cold weather but those services ended on June 30 and won't resume until later in the year.
Whether the new facility will house the majority of sheltering services is still being discussed by Just Compassion board members, an organization that is a coalition of religious, civic and business owners who serve those without permanent housing.
"We're still talking those things through," said Baker. "We've already outgrown our space where we are now."
Just Compassion also runs a larger overnight shelter for the unhoused in Beaverton. The city government provides the building, and the organization takes care of the day-to-day operations.
In October, Just Compassion's resource center dedicated the remodeling of its lower level, where two bathrooms were added (one containing a shower and both accessible for those with disabilities), a laundry room and an open community room that doubles as an overnight shelter. This spring, the nonprofit started a community garden.
Baker said the news about the federal funds is particularly nice because when Just Compassion's organizers were talking about planning for a capital construction campaign in February and early March, they had no idea such money was available.
"It's a wonderful opportunity, but it's also a tremendous responsibility, and we're looking forward to both," he said.
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