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Portland's Wapato Jail rededicated as homeless shelter

The Bybee Lakes Hope Center will open in September.
Credit: KGW
During a rededication ceremony, wire outside the former Wapato Jail in Portland was cut down. The facility is now a homeless shelter.

PORTLAND, Ore — The former Wapato Jail in North Portland was rededicated as a homeless shelter Wednesday morning.

The new facility, called the Bybee Lakes Hope Center, is scheduled to open in September.

When local developer Jordan Schnitzer purchased the building for $5 million, he had a goal of turning it into a shelter. After months of publicly threatening to demolish the jail, he announced he’d found help in the form of Alan Evans, the CEO of Helping Hands, a nonprofit that runs shelters along the Oregon coast.

Helping Hands announced new partnerships with Portland Public Schools and TriMet during the news conference.

Evans told KGW in June that a portion of the shelter slated to open by September will house close to 70 emergency shelter beds reserved for people who, for whatever reason, need a bed and food for the night.

More than 200 other beds will hopefully be ready to open by the end of the year, he said. Those will serve as longer term housing for people working to get back on their feet.

Multnomah County originally built the jail in 2004 for $58 million, but the project was poorly planned, and the jail was never used. Each year, the county spent millions more in upkeep. Officials cited the extensive maintenance costs as their main argument against using Wapato as a homeless shelter.

Since announcing their partnership, Schnitzer and Evans have raised more than $4 million in private money, which Evans said should cover operating costs for the next two years. Schnitzer is leasing the space to Helping Hands for the next five years.

KGW's Maggie Vespa contributed to this report.

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