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Human Solutions to open emergency homeless shelter in Gresham

Food and warm clothing desperately needed

For the first time, Human Solutions is opening an emergency nighttime shelter for homeless families in Gresham, said Executive Director Jean DeMaster.

During the past seven years, Human Solutions’ winter shelter for families has been in Portland, DeMaster said, but that shelter space has run out of room because the demand has increased so dramatically.

“We keep getting more and more homeless families and the old location could hold 70 people, but our average census was 100 last year,” she said.

The shelter will be in the old Social Security building at 16141 E. Burnside St. near the intersection of 165th Avenue and will be open from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m., possibly by Nov. 3.

Human Solutions is still going through the permitting process with the city of Gresham, DeMaster said, but the process is in the final stages and going well.

“It’s looking good, but if we don’t open there, we will have a temporary shelter,” she said.

Homeless families will be able to get in out of the cold and rain at the shelter, DeMaster said, but there is a critical need for food, warm clothing and blankets.

The shelter has a serving area but no kitchen, so all food will have to be brought in, she said.

Cash donations are also welcome, she said. To make a contribution or a commitment to bring food, people can log onto the Human Solutions website at www.humansolutions.org, call shelter coordinator Adam Lyons at 503-863-9139 (day or night) or call the Human Solutions main number at 503-548-0253 during daytime hours.

“We are hoping church groups will get involved, or Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts, or even a group of friends who sign up to bring food once a month,” she said. “Clubs like Kiwanis can take just one night a month, but if they don’t want to make that kind of commitment, they can call us and just bring food for one night.”

Meals can consist of casseroles or sandwiches or any nutritious food.

“When we open at 7 p.m., people are hungry,” she said. “They are mostly hungriest at night and can have leftovers in the morning, but we hate sending kids to school with no breakfast.”

DeMaster said she has contacted SnowCap Community Charities, but that agency already is stretched to its limit. She plans to also contact Birch Community Services, but the help of the community is essential because the need is so dire.

The shelter is open only to families or to pregnant women in their third trimester, DeMaster said. Shelters for single men and women will be opened during the winter in downtown Portland in the Burnside Street area, she said.

There is also a great need for coats, scarves and other warm clothing, she said, as well as blankets and pillows.

Once families arrive in the shelter, they’ll be greeted by four staff members from Human Solutions who will be with them through the night.

“We want them to have a safe place to stay, an evening meal and a breakfast meal,” she said. “They’re very hungry when they come in, but it’s safe and dry.”

Staff members also will talk to families about how to access permanent housing, she said.

“We’ll make sure they do all the right things to move up in the line to get housing,” she said. “Last year the wait was between 30 and 45 days, but we are hoping to cut that down.”

People who are doubling up with other families sometimes think they have a better chance of getting housing by checking into the shelter, but that’s not the case, DeMaster said.

“We want people to know they don’t have to come to the shelter (to be eligible for housing),” she said. “They can come to Human Solutions or call 2-1-1 for information referral. It’s first come, first served on the list.”

But if homeless families don’t have a way to be contacted, they may be bypassed, she said, so in that case, coming to the shelter is a good idea since they can be contacted there, she said.

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