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Eastside police building panned as homeless shelter

City and county officials have decided not to convert a prime Portland Police Bureau property, the former Southeast Precinct, into a homeless shelter.

The precinct building at 4735 E. Burnside St. had been flagged as “under-utilized” by the city, causing it to be reviewed for possibly reuse to house the poor. Housing officials have been scrambling to find short-term and long-term space for homeless people, in part because a large temporary shelter at Sears Armory recently closed.

But a tour of the former precinct last week caught police officers off guard and at a time when morale was already poor, officials say.

Portland Police Bureau spokesman Pete Simpson on Thursday said Mayor Charlie Hales' office has confirmed the idea is off the table.

Marc Jolin, a housing official who is deeply involved in the shelter search, referred questions to Hales' spokewoman. She could not immediately be reached to explain the decision-making process, but she and others had said the layout of the building would be challenging.

The nondescript building used to be a Safeway grocery store. It became a precinct for patrol officers in the 1970s. In 2009, patrols were shifted to other precincts, though the building has continued to be used by police and neighborhood crime prevention units.

Officers hold out hope that the precinct again will become a home for patrols when new people are hired to fill roughly 60 vacancies to combat a historic staffing shortage at the bureau. “It’s a place that we would hope to use full-time, 100 percent again,” said Daryl Turner, president of the Portland Police Association.