Once again, Portland's private sector has stepped up to bring creative solutions to the city's crisis of homelessness.

Once again, Portland’s private sector has stepped up to bring creative solutions to the city’s crisis of homelessness.

In October, Tom Cody, principal with project^, a Portland real estate development company, donated use of the vacant Bushong & Co. Building at Southwest Park Avenue and Stark Street to the city of Portland and Multnomah County for six months as a temporary shelter. The facility is set to open by Thanksgiving and will give 100 people a safe, indoor alternative to sleeping outside this winter.

Cody said his decision to offer the building was inspired by the Barry Menashe family, who just last winter donated use of one of their vacant buildings at Southwest Fourth Avenue and Washington Street as a temporary shelter for men. Called the “Peace Shelter,” the facility originally operated from January to May 2016 with 100 beds. The space was then expanded by 165 beds and stayed open through July 2016 to accommodate people displaced from the temporary city-run Sears shelter in Multnomah Village after it closed its doors.

The Peace Shelter last winter and the new Bushong shelter are examples of public-private partnerships that take advantage of existing, empty space and move from idea to operations in a short period of time. Together, the city and county will fund the new Bushong shelter through the Joint Office on Homelessness while Transition Projects, an outstanding Portland service provider who managed the Peace Shelter last winter, runs the facility. Other local businesses, like Chown Hardware, Providence Health Systems and Kaiser Permanente have stepped up to help make sure the space is ready for the winter months.

Partnerships will be important not only to provide temporary shelter opportunities but also to find long-term solutions to address our homeless state of emergency. Homer Williams, chairman at Williams & Dame, a local private developer, did the community a great service in pushing hard for a Harbor of Hope shelter at the Terminal 1 facility. His efforts engaged a broad array of public, private and nonprofit community members. He got people excited about pursuing a bigger, bolder vision for how we can work together on real solutions. As a community, we have moved from limited options to the realm of the possible.

While the Portland Business Alliance opposed use of Terminal 1 as a permanent shelter site because it is scarce industrial land needed to support jobs, we consistently agreed with Williams’s vision of a robust shelter connected to services. Terminal 1 is now off the table as a shelter site, but we can harness the vision, energy and possibilities created and move forward collectively in pursuit of long-term solutions. And we can capitalize on opportunities as they arise, like the Bushong building. The Alliance looks forward to continuing work with Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury, Commissioner Dan Saltzman and Mayor-Elect Ted Wheeler to keep the momentum going in identifying more emergency shelter beds and more permanent, affordable housing.

Led by Chair Kafoury, in 2016 the number of publicly funded shelters in Multnomah County will double. With hard work, a vision of what’s possible and a lot of creativity, this community can continue to come together and make a serious dent in our crisis of homelessness in 2017.

Jim Mark is CEO of Melvin Mark Companies and is chair-elect of the Portland Business Alliance board of directors. Send feedback to: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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