Joint Office adds to its ongoing shelter expansion — a motel in Gresham, opening in winter — after Board votes to approve lease

November 10, 2022

The Joint Office of Homeless Services on Thursday, Nov. 10, took another step in its ongoing shelter expansion, receiving approval from the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners to lease a 44-room motel with an option to purchase it any time.

The motel shelter, a Super 8 in Gresham, is expected to open this winter, said interim Joint Office director Shannon Singleton. The Joint Office is negotiating with a provider to operate the site, she said, but has not yet signed a final contract.

The new 24-hour, fully staffed shelter will serve a specialized function in the overall shelter system, providing “bridge shelter” beds for people who are signed up for permanent supportive housing who are waiting to move into their new homes. A bridge shelter program, a nationally recognized best practice, is a first for the Joint Office and Multnomah County.

The supportive housing programs connected with the shelter program prioritize households based on factors such as behavioral health needs, disabling conditions, and length of homelessness.

“This Board unanimously agreed to and wants us to do this,” Singleton said, noting the Board’s approval for the Joint Office’s budget, which included plans for a site like this. 

“Bridge shelter allows us to place people at the top of the list for supportive housing into this program,” she said. Without a program like this, “sometimes we lose people or we can’t find them, or it’s hard to get documentation pieces together. And sometimes people lose their housing opportunities.”

Commissioner Lori Stegmann, whose district in east Multnomah County includes the site, said the Joint Office has been in monthly meetings with east County leaders who have been “clamoring for more shelter and more services.” She also noted the impending arrival of winter.=

“I‘m really grateful we’re able to open,” she said. “The fact that we can open these 44 units in a part of the County that desperately needs them and will help people transition into housing is amazing.

“I don’t want to lose track of how important this is to the county as a whole and to east Multnomah County.”

The Board voted 3-1 to approve the lease and purchase option. Commissioner Sharon Meieran voted against the measure, citing questions about the timing of a potential purchase and questions about whether an operator was contracted yet. Chair Deborah Kafoury was not present for the vote.

Ongoing shelter expansion 

Despite a persistently incorrect narrative that the Joint Office has prioritized housing at the expense of shelter, half of the Joint Office’s budget this year is dedicated to shelter expansion and operations.=

The Joint Office in the past 12 months has added more than half a dozen sites to its shelter system, not including the Super 8. Those sites include motels, congregate sites and villages, adding up to hundreds of beds. The Joint Office is actively delivering on budgeted plans to create 2,400 shelter beds.

The Joint Office has always pursued a yes/and strategy for addressing homelessness. While actively expanding a shelter system that served 6,000 people last fiscal year, the Joint Office and its contracted providers rehoused 4,560 who were experiencing homelessness.  =

Details of the lease

The Joint Office will lease the Super 8 site  through at least April 2024, with two six- to 12-month extensions possible. The lease will initially cost a little more than $1 million a year. The Joint Office is actively also in due diligence around the purchase option for the property, with a negotiated price of $5.72 million. 

About the Joint Office of Homeless Services

Before the Joint Office was created in July 2016, Portland and Multnomah County each served different populations of people experiencing homelessness.=

The City historically oversaw shelter, outreach and supportive housing programs for single adults and adults experiencing chronic homelessness, as well as the PIT Count — operating a larger, more expensive system than Multnomah County.=

The County historically served youth, families and domestic violence survivors, providing shelter, outreach and supportive housing programs for those groups.

Through the Joint Office, the County has been able to support the City in its traditional role serving adults and adults experiencing chronic homelessness.

This year, over half of the Joint Office’s budget — which the Joint Office presented to both the Portland City Council and the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners during each government’s annual budgeting process — is dedicated to expanding and operating shelter.