Rushing to carve out more space for those living in the region’s existing homeless shelters, Multnomah County has honed in on a new building to convert: Portland’s boutique Jupiter Hotel.
All of the hotel’s 81 rooms will be used to house people experiencing homelessness who are sick but have yet to test positive for COVID-19. All beds are reserved for people already within the county's shelter system. Jupiter NEXT, the hotel next door, will operate as usual.
Marc Jolin, the Joint Office of Homeless Services director, said the space is intended for short-term stays while people recover from their illness. There will be a nurse on site, as well as other support staff.
“It really is the opportunity for folks to await the outcomes of their tests. And if they’re feeling better, we’ll move them back,” he said at a press conference announcing the conversion. “It is a space that is focused on people’s ability to manage their symptoms and hopefully recover.”
The county has already converted the Charles Jordan Community Center and the Oregon Convention Center into shelters, each of which can fit 120 people. As of Thursday, both are fully occupied, Jolin said.
Unable to fill the rooms, the hotel’s management had laid off half its staff the week prior. General Manager Nick Pearson said his team got the idea to convert the hotel this week and quickly arranged a meeting with Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury.
“We were listening to XRAY.fm on Wednesday morning, heard about the need, contacted Deborah’s office, and by 3 o’clock that day we were all sitting down finalizing what this partnership would look like,” he said.
Twelve people had already moved into the hotel as of Thursday afternoon, according to Jolin.
The county’s looking for qualified people to help staff their three new shelter spaces, as well as additional buildings they plan to convert down the road.
“We need qualified medical staff,” Kafoury said. “And we need compassionate people with experience in social services to sign up for volunteer shifts or for temporary, paid full-time work.”