Officials open new downtown Portland homeless shelter

The shelter was a project of the new city-county office A Home for Everyone

The new shelter will be open for 6 months and feature 60 beds. November 29, 2016, (Jaime Valdez - Portland Tribune)
The new shelter will be open for 6 months and feature 60 beds. November 29, 2016, (Jaime Valdez - Portland Tribune)

PORTLAND, Ore. (PORTLAND TRIBUNE) — Local officials on Friday celebrated the opening of a new homeless shelter downtown, the fifth since January— placing a new city-county venture well on its way to meeting a goal of 650 new beds before the year is out.

Before a backdrop of rows of 60 green mattresses Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury hailed the contributions of developer Tom Cody who offered six months of free space for the shelter. It’s located right next to O’Bryant Square.

“I know it’s easy to lose faith in the power of the individual,” said Kafoury, while recognizing Cody and others. “Working together we can truly change lives.”

The shelter was a project of the new city-county office A Home for Everyone, created when Kafoury took Mayor Charle Hales up on his pledge to beef up the city’s housing efforts. It will be overseen by the nonprofit Transition Projects.

Hales, who also spoke, said the warmth of the partnerships behind the new project comes in stark contrast to the cold outside. But he said it isn’t enough. “We need more of this.”

The Portland Tribune is a KOIN media partner.

The newest shelter will be slated for men 55 and older, or with disabilities. Kafoury said it reflects a major unmet need, noting that literally a block away a man slept on the ground under a concrete overhang covered by a blanket, a wheelchair parked next to him. “It’s heartbreaking. I don’t know how people can walk past that and not be moved to do something,” she said.

Kafoury said the shelter effort coincided with efforts to help people avoid homelessness as well foster the building of permanent housing. She said the combined efforts and better coordination have assisted 9,000 people to tap assistance programs to keep from losing their homes and also helped 4,000 people get back into permanent housing.

Given the rapid pace of new shelters opening, a new one could be up very shortly, officials said.

“When we work together in common cause, we can do great things.” Kafoury said. “I would encourage anyone in our community who wants to help to … get involved.”

Kafoury and Hales thanked numerous other businesses, nonprofits and local government leaders who came together in a few short weeks to make the shelter happen. Other partners included Kaiser Permanente, Providence Health, Portland Business Alliance, Chown Hardware and Atlas Electrical.

“We are much stronger together,” said county Commissioner Loretta Smith. “We are doing the job.”

Shelter success

The new partnership has accounted for four previous shelters so far:

• A 134-bed shelter for women and children in a former strip club on Southeast Stark Street in Portland.

• A 200-bed shelter for adults in the Hansen Building that once housed the Sheriff’s Office headquarters at Northeast 122nd Avenue and Glisan Street

• The Gresham Women’s Shelter, with 90 beds, opened in a remodeled building on East Burnside Street.

• Willamette Shelter, with 120 beds for women and couples, opened on Southeast Milwaukie Avenue in the Sellwood area.