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Wheeler, Novick to tour Texas model for controversial Portland homeless center

COURTESY HARBOR OF HOPE - Developer Homer Williams has released this sketch of his proposed homeless shelter at Terimnal 1.Mayor-Elect Ted Wheeler and Commissioner Steve Novick are planning to travel to San Antonio to tour the Haven for Hope homeless multi-service center on Oct. 15.

The trip is intended to give them insights into the operation of the facility, which is the model for the Harbor of Hope that developer Homer Williams has proposed be built at Terminal 1 in Northwest Portland.

Also planning to take the tour is Brendan Finn, Commissioner Dan Slatzman’s chief of staff, and Maurice Henderson, who is working on Wheeler’s transition team and will be his chief of staff when he takes office on Jan. 1.

“Commissioner Novick and Mayor-elect Wheeler came up with the idea together and are going in their official capacities. They've both heard so much about Haven for Hope and wanted to go on an official information-gathering trip,” Laura Hanson, Novick’s communications advisor and scheduler, said in an email to the Portland Tribune.

The Haven of Hope in Texas offers camping, shelter, housing and services to thousands of homeless people at a time. Terminal 1 is a surplus 14-acre piece of industrial land with a mostly vacant warehouse. It is owned by the Bureau of Environmental Services, which has received bids for it ranging from $6 million to $10 million.

Shortly before the bids were unsealed, on Aug. 10, the City Council heard a presentation about the Harbor of Hope from Williams. The council then voted 3 to 2 to lease Terminal 1 to the Portland Housing Bureau so Williams could open a temporary shelter in the warehouse for up to 400 homeless people while working on his plan for a larger multi-service center there.

Voting in favor of the lease was Mayor Charlie Hales and commissioners Novick and Saltzman, who is in charge of the housing bureau. Voting against it were commissioners Amanda Fritz and Nick Fish, who is charge of the environmental services bureau. Both Fritz and Fish said Terminal 1 is unstable for housing the homeless and should be sold to create good-paying industrial jobs, with the proceeds used to hold down future rate increases.

Many residents and businesses opposed both the temporary shelter and permanent multi-service center at the hearing. A coalition of businesses in the Portland harbor and others have served notice they will challenge the lease to the state land Use Board of Appeals.

The housing bureau has not yet submitted its proposed lease the environmental services bureau. Williams now says the temporary shelter may only house 100 people when it first opens, which might not be for another two months. Williams has released drawings of it, although plans are apparently still being finalized.

The council has also approved a $100,000 grant application to Metro to help fund planning for the proposed multi-service center.

During and after the vote, Novick said he was only supporting the temporary homeless shelter and was undecided about the permanent multi-service center. Wheeler has expressed support for Williams’ concept, but has not fully endorsed it. Both Novick and Wheeler requested that Williams take their names off the projects’ website as supporters.

The city will pay the trip’s expenses for Novick and Finn. The expenses for Wheeler and Henderson may be paid out of Wheeler’s campaign surprlus.