Homeless shelter opening in SE PDX

Shelter for women and couples

Willamette Center homeless shelter. (Multnomah Co.)
Willamette Center homeless shelter. (Multnomah Co.)

PORTLAND, Ore. (PORTLAND TRIBUNE) — The only homeless shelter in Southeast Portland’s Sellwood neighborhood will open this week.

Called The Willamette Center, it’s located at 5120 S.E. Milwaukie Ave. The nearest shelter is a men’s shelter, the Clark Center at 1431 S.E. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, two miles north.

The exact day of opening is still being determined as final details are worked out, according to Julie Sullivan-Springhetti, Multnomah County spokeswoman.

Though The Willamette Center isn’t open yet, the year-round shelter, operating on a reservation system to avoid lining up outside, is taking reservations now by phone at 503-280-4700 or in person at Transition Projects Day Center at 650 N.W. Irving St.

Transition Projects, a Portland nonprofit that also operates the Hansen Shelter and other housing programs, is operating the facility.

The 120-bed shelter has a target population of women and couples age 18 and older, with priority for people 55 and older, those with disabilities and veterans.

It’s funded by A Home For Everyone, a partnership between Portland, Multnomah County, the city of Gresham, Home Forward and other local nonprofits in an effort to end homelessness.

The program is a component of A Home For Everyone’s goal of adding 650 additional shelter beds by mid 2017.

The Willamette Center, operating 24-7, is one of the only shelters in the county available to couples.

Of the county’s 11 non-emergency shelters for adults, five are exclusively for men, four for women — with only the Hansen Shelter at 12240 N.E. Glisan St., offering space for both men and women 18 an older.

Officials realized the need for a space where lovers can stick together.

“They’re [homeless individuals] not going to leave their spouse to go inside (a shelter),” says Sullivan-Springhetti. “This is one of the few places you can actually do that.”

Sullivan-Springhetti says The Willamette Center will offer different programming from some of the other shelters. “Part of the programming in there is to get people into permanent housing,” she says.

She says officials discovered upon opening emergency shelters that a portion of those seeking a bed at night weren’t necessarily jobless — that many were people who have been “priced out of the housing market.”

“They have jobs, but they can’t make that rent and have lost their house temporarily and need some place to go til they can find something they can afford,” Sullivan-Springhetti says.

Marc Jolin, director of the Joint Office of Homeless Services and A Home for Everyone, added that a shelter for couples has long been needed in the community.

“It will provide critical safety off the streets and by connecting people to essential services while they are there, we can make sure it is also the beginning of a rapid return to permanent housing and an end to their homelessness,” he says.

Willamette Center details

• Open to women and couples age 18 and older, with priority for people 55 and older, those with disabilities and veterans

• Reservation system; all guests required to have reservation prior to arrival. Once a space is reserved, the guest may continue to use the space until they no longer need it

• 2 large sleeping rooms

• Access to on-site resources

• A space for coffee and tea, books, board games

• Gated courtyard

• Bathrooms, shower, laundry

• Space to leave belongings during the day

• Kitchen with light food and beverages

• Onsite support services including housing, health and income resources

• Staff will provide information, referral, and support

• Trained pets allowed

• No possession of alcohol, drugs or weapons

The Portland Tribune is a KOIN media partner.