PORTLAND, Ore. — After a prolonged period of increasing gun violence, the Old Town homeless village located on the corner of Northwest 6th Avenue and Hoyt Street will permanently close down later this month.
“It simply became too unsafe and untenable for us,” said Andy Goebel.
Goebel runs All Good Northwest, a nonprofit that provides on-site behavioral health and housing services for people living at three of Portland’s homeless villages. He said the Old Town location has become too dangerous for both staff and villagers.
“We’ve had quite a few instances of gun violence, some in the immediate proximity of the village. We’ve had our staff end up being first responders to a shooting," he said.
Willamette Week first reported the news of the village closing.
The Joint Office of Homeless Services, which oversees the village, couldn’t find another nonprofit to take over management of the village, so they decided to close it down.
“That neighborhood is different than it was several years ago, and for an outdoor sheltering model it’s a challenging place right now,” said Denis Theriault, the deputy communications director for Multnomah County.
Officials are now working to find housing for the more than 40 villagers living at the Old Town location. Potential housing options include motel rooms and new Safe Rest Villages.
“We’re very close to having a place for everyone to be,” said Goebel.
However, the closure affects more than just those currently living in the village. Kurt Love told KGW that he was on the village waitlist.
“I was almost to the top of the list after like six months of waiting, and I’m not getting a house now,” he said.
As Love keeps counting the days until he finds a place to call home, he's trying to survive on the streets.
“It was almost safe. It was almost not losing your cell phone or your backpack every night, almost having a place to get clean and go to work from … consistency,” Love said.
This setback comes as several other homeless shelters and villages are slowly opening across the city. One on Southeast Market Street added 120 beds to the more than 1,600 already existing shelter beds in the community.
“We are adding village space in east county — we are looking to develop other congregate spaces, other motel spaces — so in the context, you’re still going to see a huge jump in shelter capacity,” said Theriault.
Commissioner Dan Ryan’s office commented on the closure in a statement:
“We respect the decision to close operations at the Old Town location for the safety of staff and villagers … the closure of the Old town Village has no impact on the opening of any of the Safe Rest Villages. We will be opening the Multnomah Safe Rest Village later this month, with another by the end of summer.”
“Any time there’s transition like this we realize it’s difficult, it’s even traumatizing,” Goebel added.
Portland’s first new Safe Rest Village since the opening of the Queer Affinity Village in May will open in Multnomah Village in mid-June, and that’s where a handful of the people living at the Old Town location are slated to move.