Statement from Commissioner Dan Saltzman on Terminal 1 Shelter Proposal
Thank you to everyone who has written me or called our office to share their concerns about providing temporary shelter for those experiencing homelessness at the Terminal 1 site. Whether you wrote us before or after last week’s vote or if you were writing us to express your frustration at the city’s response to homelessness in general, I wanted a chance to update you on what the city and county are doing and what the next steps are for Terminal 1.
Given some of the assumptions and misconceptions about the action City Council took last week, I also wanted to take a moment to add some clarity about our housing state of emergency and what is and is not happening at Terminal 1.
With Council’s approval last week, we are now finalizing a lease between our two city bureaus — the Portland Housing Bureau (PHB) leasing from the Bureau of Environmental Services who owns Terminal 1 — to give PHB the authority to enter into an agreement with Oregon Trail of Hope for use of the site as a privately-funded shelter beginning in October to add much-needed capacity to our shelter system through the rainy and colder months.
This lease payment is the only financial commitment the city will be making at this time, and the only procedural one. We are not changing the underlying industrial zoning of the land and we are not committing to more than six months of this use until we see what Oregon Trail of Hope can do. Furthermore, payments will not begin until after an operating agreement has been written, vetted, and approved by the Home for Everyone Board in September. Until then, the Portland Housing Bureau, the Joint Office for Homelessness Services, and Oregon Trail of Hope will continue to engage with the houseless community, service providers, as well as concerned residents, businesses and schools in relative proximity to Terminal 1, to make sure the operating agreement for the site reflects the values we all share: to ensure the safety and security of visitors to the site and the surrounding community as a whole.
This process and this type of agreement is not unusual. In fact, it is exactly how the city, under the declared housing state of emergency, was able to quickly open successful temporary shelter sites in Multnomah Village, Downtown, and Gateway over the last year. When the City and County originally created the Home for Everyone Board, we had aspirations of being able to engage the private sector in a meaningful way in helping us solve the humanitarian crisis of homelessness in our community. The downtown shelter, generously donated by the Menashe family for six months earlier this year, was an answer to that call. So is the commitment of financial resources of Homer Williams and Oregon Trail of Hope, an offer I was not willing to ignore.
Those who question the due diligence the city has engaged in may not know that with the Mayor’s lead, over 120 sites, some city-owned, have been looked at and vetted as possible shelter sites over the last year. There are a number of reasons a majority of these sites would not work out, including the very real cost of transportation to/from the site which is one of many reasons the often-suggested Wapato Jail has been rejected by both City and County officials. Many additional suggestions have come from the business community, including Terminal 1, which was suggested by the Portland Business Alliance.
As with any new shelter site, we engaged with the Bureau of Development Services and our Fire Marshal to ensure the structural integrity and fire suppression capability of the building. At Oregon Trail of Hope’s request, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has also reviewed environmental site data from Terminal 1 and concluded that it supports the property’s use as a shelter (full text of DEQ’s email to city staff can be found here).
None of this is a replacement for the tremendous strides the City and County have made to streamline our services for people experiencing homelessness. Learn more about the Joint Office for Homelessness Services here. For more information on the other 15 shelters the City, County and local nonprofits already run throughout the Portland Metro region, as well as 3 additional shelters that are prepared to open in the case of severe weather, click here to view the shelter distribution map.
None of this is a replacement for this City Council’s commitment to what we all know to be the only long-term solution to our housing crisis — more affordable and supportive housing. You can read about all that we are doing to increase the stock of affordable housing here.
I expect many of you will continue to engage me on this issue over the coming months and I encourage you to continue to do so. Many of you have been emailing articles and links to what other cities are doing to address homelessness and although many of these programs are well known to our homelessness team, we appreciate the time and research you put in.