Project Turnkey grant helps Joint Office purchase motel for shelter during COVID-19 and beyond

July 9, 2021

The Stark Street Shelter operated by Do Good Multnomah, under contract with the Joint Office.
PORTLAND — The Joint Office of Homeless Services will receive $3.45 million from the Oregon Community Foundation’s state-funded Project Turnkey program — allowing the department to purchase another of the seven motels it’s using as a shelter for community members who face heightened risks from COVID-19.

The Joint Office will also use $1.5 million in local COVID-19 funds to acquire the 43-room former Motel 6, known as the Stark Street Shelter, in east Multnomah County.

The shelter, currently managed by Do Good Multnomah, provides services-focused shelter for community members who were most likely to become seriously ill from COVID-19, particularly people who identify as BIPOC, people who have high-risk underlying health conditions, people who are 65 or older, and veterans. 

In all, the Joint Office is funding more than 300 rooms in seven high-risk COVID-19 motel shelters, with one additional motel, the Jupiter, operating as a COVID-19 isolation motel. Six of the eight sites are being leased.

Even throughout COVID-19, thanks to motels and other sites, the Joint Office has maintained shelter capacity and managed more than 1,400 year-round shelter beds. Shelters are located in every part of the County, from Gresham to Southwest Portland to North Portland.

Stark Street will be the second motel site acquired by the Joint Office, joining a former Days Inn on 82nd Avenue purchased with CARES Act dollars in late 2020. By purchasing motels, the Joint Office can continue providing shelter even after the COVID-19 response has ended.

“Using motels to provide specialized shelter for our neighbors most vulnerable to COVID-19 unquestionably saved lives during the pandemic,” said Chair Deborah Kafoury. “But the support services and stability we can provide in motel-based shelters will be just as important as the pandemic eases. Thanks to support from Project Turnkey, I’m grateful we’ll be able to continue providing this resource.”

“While COVID-19, wildfires and global warming continue to devastate our communities, it is more imperative than ever for us to provide as many resources as possible for those who are hit first and worse,” said Commissioner Lori Stegmann, who represents outer east Portland, Gresham and all of east Multnomah County. “East County has not always received the long-term investments needed to meet peoples’ basic needs. But with this funding, the Oregon Legislature has empowered the County to invest where services are most needed. I am incredibly grateful to the Joint Office of Homeless Services, Oregon Community Foundation and Project Turnkey for making East County a priority.”

The state created Project Turnkey last year to help agencies around Oregon acquire motels and hotels for use as shelters for people experiencing homelessness.

Oregon Community Foundation, which administers Project Turnkey on behalf of Oregon, announced the Joint Office’s grant, along with a grant for the city of Bend, in a news release Thursday, July 8.

Those grants were made possible after Gov. Kate Brown and the Oregon Legislature approved $9.7 million in additional funds for Project Turnkey last month. To date, the Legislature has allocated $74.7 million for Project Turnkey. Oregon Community Foundation has successfully administered both funds through an application and selection process, with guidance from an Advisory Committee of state, local, and community stakeholders.

“Project Turnkey is wrapping up with 19 total properties throughout 14 counties in Oregon, realizing approximately 900 beds/units with these latest two grant announcements,” said Megan Loeb, Oregon Community Foundation’s program officer.

Project Turnkey represents about a 20 percent increase in the state's supply of emergency year-round shelter beds for people experiencing homelessness, achieved in less than eight months.

Longer term, Oregon Housing and Community Services (OHCS) is committed to providing ongoing support and technical assistance for Project Turnkey projects.