PORTLAND, Ore. – A Beaverton pastor wants to lease the unused Wapato County Jail from Multnomah County and turn it into a homeless shelter.
Pastor Michelle McLaughlin spoke in front of commissioners Thursday morning at a public hearing. Although she is a pastor, she said she is doing this as a private citizen.
McLaughlin said she has started a nonprofit called Damascus Gate Foundation. With help from investors and the community, she is hoping to raise about $2.1 million.
The goal is to lease the Wapato Jail property within 45 days and turn it into a homeless shelter mixed with other social and private services. She said she has already proposed a letter of intent.
She set the 45-day goal because she said she'd like to see it happen before it gets too cold outside.
McLaughlin, who said she'd like to eventually purchase the property, said her plan would save the county $500,000 a year, since the operation would be privately funded.
While some believe the jail is too far away from services, McLaughlin said her solution is to bring the services to the jail.
"The campus is so large we can gave different social services — mental health services, addiction and recovery services — and have those all available right there, so people don't need to go back and forth, as well as we'll have job training,” she said.
County spokesperson Julie Sullivan-Springhetti said the county welcomes all proposals about what to do with the site, and each proposal will have to go through an evaluation process. She said the site is challenging based on its heavy industrial zoning.
“We have to make sure that whatever plan is out there is going to be able to overcome those hurdles,” Sullivan-Springhetti said.