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Former strip club to shelter homeless

Black Cauldron — a former vegan strip club on the border of Portland and Gresham — will be converted into a year-round homeless shelter run by Human Solutions.

It will be the first time Multnomah County has a year-round, 24/7 permanent shelter for families.

“In the past we’ve had family shelters just during the winter months when it’s cold, and it’s only been available from evening until morning,” said Deborah Kafoury, chair of the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners. “There’s been times when I would go serve dinner at the family shelter and it would be cold and rainy with kids waiting in line with their parents to get in.”

The Multnomah County Board of Commissioners voted at its meeting on Nov. 22 to partner with Human Solutions to help fund the purchase of the Black Cauldron, located at 16015 S.E. Stark St.

At a purchase price of $950,000, about three-quarters of the financing will come from the county, and the balance will be through the Housing Development Center community loan fund, said Andy Miller, the new executive director of Human Solutions.

The Gresham-based nonprofit was in desperate need of a new place to locate its winter warming center, as their previous space in Gresham at Southeast 161st Avenue and Burnside Street was not adequate to meet the demand.

“The beds took up all of the space we were leasing; it was not an easy place for folks to be provided with meals. It lacked showers and laundry facilities for the families,” Miller said of the old shelter.

Once the Black Cauldron is converted, Human Solutions plans to have beds, indoor and outdoor play spaces for kids, showers and laundry, and a computer lab with Internet access where families can look for housing and jobs and kids can do their homework.

Unlike other shelters, families would be allowed to stay during the day.

The site will be able to provide shelter for 130 adults and children 24 hours a day.

Miller said Human Solutions hopes to close on the building in early November and have it open for the homeless in February.

“I think you can’t underscore enough the fact that (they’re) turning a former strip club into a place where families can stabilize. ... It’s not often that neighbors are happy to hear about a homeless shelter moving into their neighborhood, but when the alternative is a strip club, they’re really excited,” Kafoury said.

Or as Miller put it, Human Solutions is turning a situation “from vice to nice.”

Under the terms of the loan, the county will loan Human Solutions $300,000 to be used as a down payment for the acquisition. The county will also loan Human Solutions $372,002 for construction fees.

For leasing the shelter, Human Solutions will get a $50,000 credit from the county every year it is in operation toward the principal on the loan.

“For Human Solutions, we consider our first and foremost mission is around people and helping people find pathways out of homelessness and poverty, and our shelter is the first step for someone experiencing homelessness,” Miller said. “We also consider part of our mission is not to just develop people, but community and place. This is a really good opportunity for us to improve the neighborhood long-term.”