For people and families transitioning from homelessness to permanent supportive housing, a challenge can arise: Where can they stay while waiting for their new home to become available?
Andy Goebel, executive director of the shelter services nonprofit All Good Northwest, has seen people slip through the cracks at the in-between stage between homelessness and permanent housing.
“Oftentimes, people who are incredibly vulnerable and who are still on the streets or in shelter — they may have a housing placement come up. And if we can't find them, if they don't have a place to transition, then we can lose track of them, and they can lose that opportunity,” Goebel said.
Addressing this gap is why Multnomah County and the Joint Office of Homeless Services, in partnership with All Good Northwest, are opening the first-ever “bridge shelter” in the County — a low-barrier temporary shelter bridging the space between the streets and a home.
On Friday, Jan. 13, about 30 people gathered for a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Rockwood Bridge Shelter, a 44-room motel shelter in Gresham that will provide a temporary home for people on track to be placed into permanent supportive housing.
The shelter is among several the Joint Office has opened or begun preparing to open since last year, part of a sustained shelter expansion that includes not only motel shelters, but also village-style spaces and traditional shelters.
Households will be referred for placement in the bridge shelter from Multnomah County’s coordinated entry system, a by-name list of people experiencing chronic homelessness who are prioritized for supportive housing based on factors like behavioral health needs, disabilities, and length of homelessness.
“This bridge shelter is literally going to bridge the gap from crisis to supportive, sustainable housing for people in the community,” said A’Jay Scipio, chair of the All Good Northwest board of directors, at the ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Goebel — who has overseen All Good Northwest since its formation in 2021 and previously worked for Joint Office contractor Do Good Multnomah — said the shelter will give people the opportunity to adjust to an environment similar to permanent supportive housing. Residents will have their own rooms, each with a bathroom, microwave, television and other amenities.
“In terms of the step before permanent housing, this is the best setup in which to do that,” Goebel said. “[This] is a fantastic way to prepare them for when they are on their own, when they end up having their own kitchen, and their own place to plant their plants, and set up their furniture, and all of those things.”
All Good Northwest’s on-site services will support residents as they make that transition. “Once they're inside, once they're in their own spaces, we get the opportunity to connect folks with that network so that they can sustain their housing,” Goebel said.
The bridge shelter setting can also help residents, many of whom have lived outside or in traditional congregate shelters for a long time, adjust to community living.
“All Good Northwest has created an environment for the residents to experience and be responsible for the community here and the neighborhood that they are part of,” said Lynn Snodgrass, CEO of the Gresham Area Chamber of Commerce, which sponsored the ribbon-cutting and welcomed All Good Northwest to Gresham’s Rockwood community.
“Welcome to the neighborhood,” Snodgrass said. “You already are an example of what it looks like to be a good neighbor.”
Although lengths of stay at the shelter will vary, Goebel and All Good Northwest are hopeful the Rockwood Bridge Shelter will go on to help hundreds of people transition to permanent supportive housing.
“The thing about this particular program is the hope is that we serve exponentially more than 44 people,” Goebel said. “For some, it may take several weeks, it may take months for them, but ultimately, we want to see people here for a shorter period of time and then transition successfully into permanent housing.”
At the ribbon-cutting ceremony, speakers thanked the Gresham and East Multnomah County communities for their support and encouraged continued action to address the homelessness crisis in Multnomah County.
“This community, the East County, right here, we are at the tip of the spear. We are making history right here,” Scipio said. “This is just the beginning.”