Harbor of Hope has an announcement to make — and it’s not about Wapato.
The nonprofit, which for years has pushed the idea of a large-scale campus to assist homeless Portlanders, has called a press conference for Tuesday morning. A release says the group will unveil “a new joint private/public project to address homelessness.”
People joining in the event include Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury, Columbia Sportswear CEO Tim Boyle and officials from Oregon Health & Science University and Portland State University.
The planned announcement comes at an interesting time. Harbor of Hope founders Homer Williams and Don Mazziotti recently made a $7 million offer for the county’s mothballed Wapato jail facility, which they say could be used to house the homeless. But about the only detail either man would share Monday afternoon was that the never-used jail has nothing to do with Tuesday’s news.
“It’s not about Wapato,” Mazziotti said. Williams and a spokesperson for Wheeler also declined to speak on the record about the announcement.
Still, the fact that something is being announced could signal a large-scale project is afoot. Since 2016, Williams, a prominent Portland developer, and Mazziotti, former executive director of the Portland Development Commission (now known as Prosper Portland), have suggested a series of new ideas for serving the city’s growing homeless population.
In 2016, the group proposed a campus at Terminal 1, a piece of surplus city property just north of the Pearl District. City officials ultimately turned down the idea.
The following year, Williams had a complex plan that involved converting a city-owned golf course into industrial land, then developing housing projects on other industrial parcels around the city.
For the Wapato proposal, Mazziotti has written of creating “a multi-service restoration campus to bring housing, training, employment and productivity to the guests of such a center.”
Harbor of Hope’s $7 million offer for the old jail is still on the table, but its fate is tenuous. Kafoury and other county officials have reservations about using the facility as a shelter. The Multnomah County Board of Commissioners is scheduled to vote Thursday on another, lower offer to purchase the facility.