New Portland homeless navigation center announced
A new public-private partnership to open a "navigation center" for the homeless in Portland was announced Tuesday.
Construction of the center, which is intended to help the homeless better connect with needed services, will be largely funded by a $1.5 million donation from Columbia Sportswear executive Tim Boyle, received by the nonprofit Oregon Harbor of Hope. The facility will consist of a pavilion to be erected close to the west end of the Broadway Bridge on land owned by Prospser Portland, formerly known as the Portland Development Commission. It will include 120 beds where the homeless can stay while they are evaluated and referred to appropriate services.
The announcement was made at a press conference attended by representatives of the entities involved in the partnership. They included: Boyle, Columbia Sportswear president and CEO; developer Homer Williams; Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler; Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury; Portland State University President Rahmat Shoureshi; and David Bangsberg, the founding dean of the joint Oregon Health & Science University-Portland State University School of Public Health.
Williams led off the press conference saying, "We all have to join this fight. We have to embrace it and participate in it."
Williams is the chair and cofounder of Harbor of Hope, which is aimed at combating homelessness, and is the prime mover behind the new navigation center.
Wheeler thanked him and Boyle, saying the center will include laundry and other services.
"There's a real need for this kind of program in Portland and in downtown specifically," Wheeler said. He added that more needs to be done about the homeless situation, calling it a "humanitarian crisis unfolding on our streets."
Kafoury echoed Wheeler, calling it "wonderful to see these business leaders lead this effort ... It's true that government cannot do this alone."
Bangsberg, the university public health expert, said, "We are ... seeing a more vulnerable homeless population," saying the population of elderly homeless has doubled in recent years.
Boyle, whose family has been a generous donor to local causes, came under pressure last year after he publicly called on Wheeler to address safety issues, citing harassment and threats to Columbia employees from homeless people downtown.
Williams is not seeking $1 million to $1.5 million a year in private donations to operate the center and shelter.
No connection with Wapato
Separately, Harbor of Hope recently offered to buy the never-used Wapato jail from Multnomah County for a major homeless shelter and service center for $7 million.
One Harbor of Hope executive, Don Mazziotti, told the Portland Tribune there is no connection between the two projects, other than coincidental timing.
But the announcement of a serious investment of funds, along with Williams' announcement of a new Harbor of Hope program of roving medical teams to help the homeless, won't do anything to relieve the pressure on county commissioners who've been debating potential sales of the Wapato site.
On Thursday, April 12, the county board was scheduled to consider selling Wapato to developer Marty Kehoe for $5 million for a medical supply distribution center, rather than to Harbor of Hope.
The commission approved the sale of Wapato to Kehoe for $10.8 million last October. County Commissioner Loretta Smith has called for the commission to reject Kehoe's new lower offer, noting that the county received several offers equal to or better than the figure now under consideration.
Wapato is a 525-bed facility on 18 acres in North Portland.
Harbor of Hope previously had tried to build a homeless shelter and service center at Terminal 1 in Northwest Portland. The City Council initially agreed to lease the property to the organization in August 2016, but the council reversed itself after the organization and the city Bureau of Environmental Services, which owned the property, could not agree on terms for a lease after two months. The city subsequently sold the 14.5-acre parcel to Lithia Motors for $11.1 million.