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UPDATE: Fish says idea worth exploring but proposed location unsuitable



CITY OF PORTLAND - Mayor-elect Ted Wheeler is interested in converting this industrial property owned by th city into a homeless service center.Mayor-elect Ted Wheeler has called a proposal by two Portland developers to build a $100 million homeless service center on city-owned land in Northwest Portland "a promising alternative" to continued outdoor camping.

The proposal by Homer Williams and Dike Dame would convert a 14-acre site along the Willamette River at 2400 N.W. Front Ave. into a one-stop-shop for up to 1,400 homeless people a day, according to The Oregonian. It would be modeled on the successful "Haven for Hope" homeless facility in San Antonio, Texas.

“I applaud Homer Williams and Dike Dame for their vision and their tenacity in pursuing that vision. Our current homelessness crisis is not a problem for government to solve alone. It is a challenge posed to our entire community, and it will take us all working together to solve it. That means partnering with local governments, non-profits, philanthropic organizations, the faith community, and the private sector to set a course of action," Wheeler said in a statement released early Tuesday.

Portland bought the former Terminal 1 site from the Port of Portland to use as a staging ground for the Big Pipe project years ago. It is currently for sale by the Bureau of Environmental Services.

A warehouse on the site was used earlier this year for indoor track meets in connection with the IAAF World Indoor Championships.

Mayor Charlie Hales, who has loosened the city's outdoor camping restrictions, is encouraging but noncommittal.

"That's what we wanted out of the State of Emergency -- community-generated ideas to address this issue. I'm looking forward to seeing more details as they develop their idea," says Hales.

Commissioner Nick Fish, who is charge of BES, applauded Williams and Dame for pitching the proposals and recruiting financial support from others in the business community.

"It's definitely worth exploring," Fish says.

Fish said the city should conduct a survey of other suitable locations around town, however, because there are several obstacles to using the former Terminal 1 site.

Among other things, Fish noted the site is owned by a city utility and cannot be used by the city for a non-utility purpose. It is also zoned industrial and the city has a shortage of industrial properties, an issued noted in the Comprehensive Plan update.

According to Fish, BES is already planning to sell the site at auction in July, and is expecting to receive bids well above the appraised value.

"That money will be used to offset future [sewer] rate increases," Fish says.

Here is the rest of Wheeler's statement:

““The city’s current tent camping policy is premised on the fact that there are few alternatives currently available. This is a promising alternative.

“During the campaign I named the San Antonio model as one we should look at here in Portland, and pointed to Terminal 1 as a possible location. I sent a representative from my team to San Antonio with Homer Williams to see what they’ve accomplished there. While there are questions that need to be answered — around location, service delivery, available resources, and the specific needs in our community — we cannot allow this opportunity to slip away before it is fully developed and vetted.

“We can no longer be a city of ‘No,’ a city of ‘We Can’t.’ We are smart, we are innovative, we are compassionate, and we must find a way to put those qualities into action to give those in our community experiencing homelessness a safe, dry place to sleep; the services they may need to fight addiction, address mental health, and find a job; and — ultimately — permanent, affordable housing.

“As Mayor-Elect, I will remain actively engaged in this discussion.”

For more information on the site, visit: www.portlandoregon.gov/bes/article/514449

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