The shelter, which the city is calling the Peace II Shelter, has 60 beds available for men who are 55 and older, have a disability, or are veterans. There’s already a wait list to sleep there.
On Wednesday evening, green mats were laid out on the floor topped with pillows and neat stacks of men’s belongings: Leather work boots, a heavy canvas jacket with a corduroy collar and a Seattle Seahawks mug.
The shelter is in a building just off Burnside street downtown. Developer Tom Cody owns the space and offered it to the city for free to use as a temporary winter shelter.
“It’s one of those things, you either have to step over somebody or you have to try to figure out how to help somebody,” he said.
Cody said he went through three stages of thinking about the city’s homeless problem. First, he noticed it. Second, he figured someone else would deal with it, and third, he thought about what he could do.
Just a block away from the new shelter, several homeless men sat on the curb at Ankeny Square. One said he was 42 years old, too young to qualify for a space in the shelter. Another said he hadn’t heard of the shelter and was interested in a bed, but wondered if he would be allowed to bring his dog.
At a brief ceremony Wednesday, Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury said the city has an obligation to help its most vulnerable people.
“As I walked up here right across the street, there was a man sleeping with a blanket over him and right next to him was his wheelchair. It’s heartbreaking. I don’t know how people can walk past that and not feel moved to do something,” Kafoury said.
A dozen other local businesses helped get the space ready. The shelter will be open for the next six months. After that, Cody plans to turn the building into office space.
The city and county have roughly doubled the number of shelter beds available in Portland in the past year, funding a total of 1,194 year-round emergency shelter spaces.