Joint Office to run three new seasonal shelter spaces, offering COVID-compliant safety off the streets for 275 more people this winter

October 23, 2020

Three new winter shelters will be in place this fall, serving as many as 275 people 24 hours a day, thanks to a partnership between the city/county Joint Office of Homeless Services, the Portland Housing Bureau, Mayor Ted Wheeler’s office and Chair Deborah Kafoury’s office.

Chair Kafoury signed a lease Thursday, Oct. 22, for the third and final site – the former Greyhound station in Old Town.

When it opens in November, the former transit station will offer a projected 100 beds to Portlanders experiencing homelessness, with an emphasis on those currently unsheltered in the Old Town area.

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 Joint Office.

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, is hosting guests now. Mt. Scott, with 75 beds managed by Joint Office staff, will open in early November.

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

“Our best work relies on partnership – between city bureaus, with county departments, across government lines and, just as important, with the community. COVID-19 has only made that more clear,” said Patricia Rojas, the Joint Office’s deputy director. “And that spirit of partnership will serve our community long after this pandemic has gone, as we continue to do whatever it takes to house and shelter our most vulnerable neighbors.”

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 sacrifice any of its 1,400 year-round beds because of physical distancing, the Joint Office moved hundreds of beds to temporary sites, including Charles Jordan and Mt. Scott. Both community centers 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.

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.

How the Joint Office has responded to COVID-19

Since February, the Joint Office, Multnomah County and the City of Portland 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 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.

The City opened public restrooms and added dozens of portable restrooms and handwashing stations throughout the community. The Joint Office, in partnership with the City, also opened three new outdoor shelters in the spring.

Overall, the Joint Office and its partner organizations help 12,000 people stay safe in a home every night instead of having to survive outside, double the number since 2015. 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.