December 10, 2020

As of Thursday, Dec. 10, Old Town’s former Greyhound Station has opened as a seasonal shelter for dozens of people who need a safer, warmer place off the streets that’s COVID-19-compliant and open 24 hours.

The Downtown Physical Distancing Winter Shelter, which was first announced earlier this fall, will offer 90 beds to Portlanders of all genders experiencing homelessness, with an emphasis on those currently unsheltered in the Old Town area. Veterans, people 55 and older, and those with disabling conditions will also have priority access. 

Transition Projects, which operates housing services in addition to more than 800 adult shelter beds across Multnomah County, will manage the shelter through a contract with the City/County Joint Office of Homeless Services. The shelter will run through the fall and winter and is scheduled to close in the spring.

The Joint Office-funded Navigation Team, made up of outreach workers from Transition Projects and Central City Concern, has been working with individuals living unsheltered in the Old Town neighborhood and will assist with connecting them to the newly available beds.

Participants will need a reservation to stay at the shelter. Once enrolled, they’ll have a bed of their own for as many days as they need. Participants can store their belongings at the shelter and also continue to provide care for their well-behaved and housebroken pets.

Reservations can be obtained at Transition Projects’ Resource Center at the Bud Clark Commons, 650 N.W. Irving St., Portland, or by calling 503-280-4700. To learn more about the shelter, visit https://www.tprojects.org/get-assistance/shelters.

Winter response thanks to partnership

The former Greyhound Bus Station, located in Old Town, has been vacant for several years. The owners are seeking to sell the site but agreed to enter into a short-term lease for the main floor of the building and the large outdoor bus loading area. The 30,000-sq.-ft. space lends itself well to shelter during the pandemic because it will allow a large number of people to sleep and gather while maintaining the necessary physical distance between guests.

With the new shelter open, that means there are now three winter shelters in place, serving roughly 265 people 24 hours a day, thanks to a partnership between the Joint Office, Mayor Ted Wheeler’s office and Chair Deborah Kafoury’s office.

"Between the weather and the COVID-19 pandemic, this winter is bound to be one of the most dangerous stretches of time for our neighbors living outside. I'm grateful for the work of the Joint Office to secure the Greyhound Station site and provide safety, rest, community and services to those who are experiencing homelessness in Old Town," said Chair Kafoury.

Mayor Wheeler previously announced that Southeast Portland’s Mt. Scott Community Center and North Portland’s Charles Jordan Community Center would serve as safe, indoor physical distancing shelters through the fall and winter. 

Charles Jordan, with 100 beds managed by Do Good Multnomah, began hosting guests in September. Mt. Scott, with 75 beds managed by Joint Office staff, opened in early November.

All three sites offer resources including housing navigation services, three meals a day, showers, and laundry. 

Part of months of work to manage the pandemic

Both Charles Jordan and Mt. Scott previously served as part of the Joint Office’s initial emergency response to the pandemic.

To avoid having to close shelters or kick people out of year-round beds because of physical distancing, the Joint Office moved hundreds of beds to temporary sites, including Charles Jordan and Mt. Scott, as well as the East Portland Community Center and the Oregon Convention Center.

Those sites were open in the spring and summer, and closed only when their bed capacity moved to longer-term motels in accordance with public health guidance and the Joint Office’s evolving pandemic response.

Amid a massive surge of COVID-19 cases in Multnomah County in November and December, the Joint Office last week finished months of work transitioning hundreds of particularly vulnerable people from congregate shelters to motels where they can better protect themselves from COVID.

Last week, adult guests began moving into the Portland Value Inn - Barbur in Southwest Portland — the sixth 24-hour “physical distancing motel shelter” opened by the Joint Office since June.

How the Joint Office has responded to COVID-19

Since February, the City, Multnomah County and the Joint Office have been working to help people experiencing homelessness stay safe in the face of COVID-19 whether they were in shelters or living outside.

The City opened public restrooms and added dozens of portable restrooms and handwashing stations throughout the community. The City also partnered with the Joint Office to open three new outdoor shelters in the spring. The Joint Office and Multnomah County Emergency Management maintained access to hundreds of shelter beds, despite the need for physical distancing, first by spreading services to new buildings, and then by moving vulnerable people to motels.

The Joint Office is also supplying community partners and volunteers with life-saving gear to share with people in camps, including more than 110,000 masks and hundreds of gallons of sanitizer and water.

Overall, the Joint Office and its partner organizations help 12,000 people stay safe in housing every night with rent assistance and other supports, double the number since 2015. In addition to that housing work, the Joint Office also doubled the community’s government-funded shelter system, now with 1,400 year-round beds — and transformed it to provide 24-hour spaces where people can come with their partners, pets and personal belongings, while also accessing health and housing services.