PORTLAND, Ore – The closed Shleifer Furniture building in Southeast Portland has become a temporary homeless shelter.
The city of Portland and Multnomah County joined with some Portland development firms to open it as a shelter.
Details were announced in a Monday press conference with Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury, Eric Cress of Urban Development +Partners, Jonathan Malsin of Beam Development and Transition Projects director George Devendorf.
The city and the county will move the Columbia Shelter, a downtown temporary shelter on the corner of Southwest 4th Avenue and Washington Street , to the Shleifer building at 509 S.E. Grand Avenue. Its old location will no longer be a shelter, because of the move.
The Columbia Shelter opened temporarily to protect people from the bitter winter cold.
The Shleifer building, which will now also be called the Columbia Shelter, will provide overnight accommodations for up to 100 people, including men, women, and couples.
Denis Theriault, with A Home for Everyone, says the shelter at the Shleifer building will remain temporary, until the fall, but says, as of now, there is not a set timeline for when it will close as a shelter.
He says the shelter will be open from 7 p.m. to 6:30 a.m. and people will stay on the first level where the furniture used to be. He also confirmed there won't be a lineup of people outside, every night. The Shleifer building will be for reserved beds, by appointment only. People will be able to bring their animals, and leave their belongings in the shelter during the day, although they will have to leave at 6:30 a.m. every day. Meals will not be provided.
Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury said the move is about building strong partnerships in the business community to help people.
“We’ve not just opened shelters because of the good graces of the city and county money, but we have worked with businesses around our town to get their buildings to be used as shelters as well,” she told KGW's Laural Portland for an upcoming 'Straight Talk' show.
She also says a long-term solution to homelessness is to find affordable housing. "The ultimate solution is more permanent affordable housing, and we are working on that. Portlanders stepped up and passed a housing bond last year, trying to get those units online."
Shleifer Furniture closed after 80 years and the building was sold to Malsin in 2015 who has plans to turn it into a hotel.
Those plans, are still a green light, according to Theriault.
"I think there's obviously a need for some hospitality on the Eastside," Malsin told the Portland Business at the time. "This is one of the most intact historic buildings in the Central Eastside, so we'd love to restore it into something hospitality-related, probably a hotel with a restaurant."
Scott Hunt owns a building, a block away from the Shleifer building. He told KGW that city and county didn’t tell the business owners the building would become a shelter. He worries about what this will do to property values, and wonders if the Shleifer building is safe for people as a shelter.
"My concern is, what is the impact it’s going to have on the neighborhood,” Hunt said. “There doesn’t seem to be an end game. The city just moves people around. There’s no solution and it’s like they’ve given up on a permanent solution at all.”
A spokesman for Beam Development says the owner of the neighboring Lotus Building was notified about the shelter, as was the owner of the neighboring bar/restaurant in that building, My Father’s Place. The owner of the adjacent parking lot was also notified. No other businesses were notified.
Hunt also worries a temporary shelter might not be so temporary.
“I would say the city is lying, they’ve done that in the past, they don’t hold themselves to their own standards. What’s 6 months. Now it’s a year.Now it’s 2 years? Local businesses and owners don’t have any recourse,” Hunt said.
Hunt attended the meeting on Monday, and spoke to Transition Projects, and Beam Development. He says he still has more questions, than answers. "I think the people involved kind of took this as a celebration. A victory. I don’t know how they are doing that, knowing that nothing really was accomplished here, in this project. You just moved 100 people."
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