The Joint Office of Homeless Services has purchased a former pharmacy at N. Lombard Street and N. Denver Avenue for use, initially, as a severe weather shelter, and then, after further program planning and development, as a services-enriched, purpose-designed long-term shelter.

Funding for the purchase was approved unanimously by the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners in December 2020.

North Portland has a significant numbers of neighbors living without shelter.

But unlike other parts of the community, it has never had a high-quality, services-enriched, community-embedded congregate facility.

That kind of facility not only offers people safety off the streets in a dignified setting — it also offers the kinds of dedicated support services and housing case management that are proven to help people end their homelessness once and for all.

Since 2016, the Joint Office has opened hundreds of shelter beds in Portland, doubling overall shelter capacity and creating successful, dignified facilities that operate in rewarding partnership with community while helping people move through to permanent housing.

Those sites include smaller alternative sites like the successful Kenton Women’s Village and the upcoming St. Johns Village. They include a new paradigm for family shelter at the Family Village Campus in Lents and Lilac Meadows in Powellhurst-Gilbert. And they include the public-private River District Navigation Center in the Pearl District and state-of-the-art facilities such as the Laurelwood Center on SE Foster Road and the Willamette Resource Center in Sellwood-Moreland.

North portland engagement

Neighbors have come through time and again with support and cheerleading, setting aside initial apprehension when they’ve learned a site might be near residences or a school. Business leaders have spoken at opening events and offered ongoing support. Neighbors have taken the lead around support and volunteering opportunities. Community members bring meals.

And neighbors and businesses — like at our Wy’east Shelter in Mill Park — have even organized welcoming parties for shelter guests, bringing their families to mingle and share food and fellowship.

These shelters are community assets. And together, they speak to an ongoing track record of redefining what shelters look like and what they can achieve for their participants and for their neighbors.

This page will offer interested community members some basic information about the Arbor Lodge site as well as a way to learn more about the developing programming around the site and to stay connected around opportunities to volunteer and support participants.

Our approach to providing shelter and services puts housing first and centers on a fundamental tenet:

Just because someone has lost their housing, it doesn’t mean they have to lose their community, too.

Frequently asked questions (Jan. 20, 2021)


Unlike our year-round and all-winter shelters, which offer more than 1,700 beds on any given night, severe weather shelters open only during specific periods of cold and/or snowy or wet weather. They are added to the stock of year-round and all-winter beds.

These are the thresholds the Joint Office uses to activate severe weather shelter:

  • Temperatures are forecast at 25 degrees or below

  • Forecasters predict an inch or more of snow  

  • Overnight temperatures drop below 32 degrees, with an inch of driving rain.

  • Other conditions occur as needed, including severe wind chills or extreme temperature fluctuations

Most years average just 10 to 20 of those nights between mid-November and the end of March. This year, so far, we have yet to reach our thresholds even once. 

Joint Office staff look at forecasts daily during the fall and winter to monitor conditions and will declare severe weather usually with several hours of notice. An alert goes out through 211 and through other channels telling community members which shelters are available and how and when to access them. 211 provides transportation for people on request. Supplies are often kept on hand at severe weather sites to ensure they can be set up quickly as conditions dictate.

Severe weather shelters are typically open only at night and close in the mornings. They provide snacks and a warm place to sleep. When capacity allows, doctors who participate in the community’s Medical Reserve Corps provide some limited care.

This year, all severe weather shelters will be COVID-19 compliant. 

The Arbor Lodge Severe Weather Shelter will be one of a handful of sites available. It will be operated by Multnomah County Emergency Management staff, in partnership with the Joint Office. It will shelter about 60 people at full capacity, a number set with physical distancing and COVID-19 compliance in mind. 


North Portland has long been identified as an area with a significant unsheltered population and insufficient access to shelter for those residents. It has therefore been a priority for the Joint Office of Homeless Services to identify an appropriate location for a community-based, services-enhanced congregate shelter in North Portland. 

We’ve had success in siting villages, but have not yet been able to provide a significant amount of year-round congregate shelter in a part of the community where there is significant and growing need. 

This particular site offers an excellent opportunity to create more of the high-quality, purpose-designed, , community-based shelter that the Joint Office has accomplished across the community, from the Willamette Resource Center in Sellwood-Moreland, to the Navigation Center in the Pearl District, to the Laurelwood Center in Foster-Powell, the Wy’east Shelter in Mill Park.

The building is extremely well-suited to this kind of housing-focused shelter program. By housing-focused, we mean that the shelter is located, designed and programmed to maximize the likelihood that people who enter the shelter will successfully and rapidly transition back into permanent housing. 

To achieve this, we need a site that is large enough to accommodate a significant number of people but not so large that the program becomes difficult to adequately support and guests lose a sense of personal safety and belonging. The site needs to be easily redeveloped to include sleeping areas, a kitchen, community space, and offices for a range of on-site services — this is a 24-hour program, with reserved beds, so the space needs to be one people can spend extended time in and have their needs met.

As a community-based shelter, the site also needs to be one where the people live there can be well integrated into the surrounding area, meaning that there is both ample indoor living and outdoor space that can be privatized for participants. The site offers wonderful opportunities for privatized outdoor seating, space to walk pets, and bike and vehicle parking. 

To support participants’ efforts to end their homelessness, a site needs to be in community, close to transit, to retail, to educational, employment, social services, and housing opportunities. The Arbor Lodge site, with its bus and MAX access, and with its proximity to numerous retail sites, North Portland employment and housing opportunities, PCC, and other services, will meet this critical need. 

The Joint Office has experience transforming similar spaces into welcoming shelter sites that offer wraparound supports. Those sites have also been proven to do more than merely coexist with their neighbors. These shelters, run by different operators, have in fact been able to build warm and positive relationships with neighbors, who volunteer and donate to the spaces, embracing the shelter participants.

Neighbors at Sellwood-Moreland have written public letters of support for the Willamette Center. We were proud that neighbors organized barbecues for the guests at Wy’east. Students at the high school across from our Laurelwood Center have served meals. Neighbors also have praised and volunteered at the River District Navigation Center in the Pearl District.


Opening a long-term shelter will require renovations and additional planning on programming. That work is months away while the Joint Office continues to work with Public Health on its COVID-19 response.

In addition, that planning will consider how best to invest resources coming online from Metro’s Supportive Housing Services Measure — which allows for investments in shelter as part of its focus on chronic homelessness.

The Joint Office does not yet have a specific operator contracted to manage the site. But any operator would have to demonstrate their capacity to build community connections and manage this shelter to the same standards we expect for the rest of our system.

Our providers traditionally attend regular neighborhood meetings to provide updates on their programs and to hear any concerns or questions. And while not every neighborhood has found the process necessary, given how well they believe a particular shelter is working, some have worked with the shelter operator and the Joint Office to create a good neighbor agreement that spells out how everyone, including neighbors, can communicate and be good neighbors in support of the shelter.


All shelter operators are required to track and report basic outcomes to Joint Office contract managers. Those outcomes typically can include tracking occupancy and bed counts, lengths of stay, how many people transition to housing, and how many people participate in services.

Those outcomes are compared against goals and outcome targets in reports filed with the Joint Office. Operators also are required to file any critical incident reports, and they are also required to maintain communications with their surrounding communities, typically by attending neighborhood meetings. 

In addition, contract managers meet and check in regularly with providers and operators. Community members also can reach the Joint Office directly with concerns or questions about programs and their operations.


We are able to operate the shelter this winter with a temporary use permit issued by the City. There are certain zoning requirements that we will need to meet as part of transitioning the space to a permanent shelter operation.

Given Multnomah County's experience with the Laurelwood Center on Foster Road — also in a commercial zone — we are confident that we will be able to meet all of those requirements. The review process will include community notification processes that we will, of course, adhere to as we move forward. 


The timing of the purchase was determined by the urgent need for COVID-19-compliant space for severe weather — and also by the use of CARES Act dollars. CARES funding needed to be allocated by the end of 2020.

Purchasing the former Rite Aid in December meant the Joint Office could achieve its goal of finding space while also putting the County’s CARES Act spending to good use on a project that will provide a community benefit not just during the pandemic, but for several years to come. 

The Board of Commissioners unanimously and enthusiastically voted to approve the use of CARES Act funding for the shelter purchase during a public meeting Thursday, Dec. 17.

Having the site in hand now, months before it would go on to serve as a quality year-round shelter, also means the Joint Office can leverage expected funding from Metro’s 2020 Supportive Housing Services ballot measure. Those funds will begin to come to counties in the region this July, and they can be invested in capital needs as well as operations for shelter programs that help people experiencing homelessness.

We will continue to engage with the community as planning for that longer-term shelter takes shape, and look forward to the same positive relationships and connections that have emerged with neighbors around our other high-quality, service-enriched year-round shelters. 


This question applies to any new business or residential development. In our experience having opened and then overseeing shelters across the community, our high-quality, services-enriched year-round spaces have had positive impacts for neighbors and for those accessing the shelter alike.

Some of our sites share fences and courtyard walls with businesses and sit within vibrant business districts. Some are adjacent to or across the street from schools. Some are very close to residences.  

And those neighbors have often come together, as we’ve written above, to celebrate and support their neighbors accessing services at the shelter. 

That’s possible because shelters are designed, supported and operated in a way that minimizes the impact on nearby businesses and residences.

Our shelters are open to participants 24 hours. That means no queueing in the evening or large releases of people into the neighborhood in the morning. Only people with reserved beds will have access to the shelter and the services provided there. There will be no walk-up traffic and no incentive for people who are not staying at the shelter to sleep outside or remain nearby during the day.

Shelters provide gathering space and offer amenities for people who have pets or need to store their belongings. That means they won’t have to carry their things with them when they leave the shelter, and there won’t be any accumulation of possessions on the sidewalks nearby. 

Our shelters also offer essential amenities: kitchen and food preparation spaces, classrooms, computer labs, showers and bathrooms, and washers and dryers. Trash pickup is required just like it would be for any business or home in Portland. 

As for concerns about how shelter residents might behave when they are in the neighborhood, the situation is no different than when any other residential development or commercial business moves into a neighborhood. Shelter operators are required to have very clear expectations for residents regarding their behaviors both in the shelter and in the neighborhood.

As anywhere else, criminal behavior in and around the shelter will not be tolerated. It is important to note that we have not experienced and do not anticipate problems along these lines.

But we are committed to working with immediately adjacent neighbors, businesses and institutions to develop positive relationships around how shelter residents interact. There will be sufficient staffing resources to ensure a positive environment.

People also question whether shelters should be close to schools, homes, businesses, child care centers, and other uses. In an urban environment, it is not feasible to exclude prospective shelter sites just because they are close to these types of uses. Many shelters and homeless services that have been open in our community for years are near these types of places. 

People in shelters want to live near, and need the support from, all of the same amenities that people in housing find desirable and want to live near.

Ultimately a shelter represents an opportunity for people enduring the traumas of homelessness to rebuild their lives. No one will be more invested in the success of the shelter and its positive integration into the community than those residents. And the Joint Office of Homeless Services and the shelter operator will both remain fully engaged to ensure that the shelter is a high-quality program that is an asset to those who live there and to the community as a whole.

View more news and updates at A Home For Everyone.