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Multnomah County converting former North Portland Rite Aid into warming shelter

Once the pandemic ends, it will become a full-service shelter with food, lodging and housing services.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Multnomah County is converting an old Rite Aid in North Portland's Kenton neighborhood into a temporary warming shelter during extreme weather.

The vacant pharmacy store is located at 1952 N. Lombard St. 

"The building itself is laid out perfectly, it's basically just an empty shell and one that's been very well kept up. We don't need to make a lot of mechanical upgrades or anything," Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury said.

Multnomah County's board of commissioners approved the sale during a Dec. 17 meeting. The county will use CARES funding to help purchase the site.

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In the short term, the site will be used as a warming shelter during extreme weather. 

According to the county's website it would only be opened when:

  • Temperatures are forecast at 25 degrees or below
  • Forecasters predict an inch or more of snow  
  • Overnight temperatures drop below 32 degrees, with an inch of driving rain.
  • Other conditions occur as needed, including severe wind chills or extreme temperature fluctuations

The shelter will house up to around 60 people while the pandemic is ongoing, keeping people safely apart. The county has bigger plans once the pandemic is over.

"Long term, we plan to use it as a full-service shelter," Kafoury said. "People will be able to stay for long periods of time, there will be food, people will have access to any number of services that they need. Then, of course, eventually back into permanent housing."

It would become the first large congregate shelter in North Portland. 

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During the same Dec. 17 meeting, the board also approved the plan to buy a motel on Northeast 82nd Avenue. The motel is currently being leased as a shelter for those with significant health issues and most at-risk for COVID-19 and will continue operating.

The two shelters combined cost $6.8 million, with $2.5 million of that coming from CARES Act funding. The money had to be used by Dec. 30.

"We feel it's a good use of the CARES dollars that are one-time only, but then we'll have long-term savings for the county." Kafoury said.

The two shelters add another option to help those experiencing homelessness get off the streets of Portland into dry and warm shelters.

"Our first goal is to always get people from the surrounding neighborhood into the shelter," Kafoury said. "So, we'll have our outreach people talk with the folks and try to get them to come in."

The North Portland shelter is set to open Dec. 30.

RELATED: Winter homeless shelter opens Thursday in Portland's Old Town Chinatown