We're working hard to vet all of the potential locations in the city for this establishment and to choose the best possible location. To find out where we are in our process and how it is likely to proceed from here, read on.
Much of the work that's been done since I became chair of the committee in 2017 is described here on my blog in articles posted under the "Homeless Services Center" category in the right sidebar. For more information on some of the work that came earlier, check out this Strategic Plan put together by a 2012 Task Force focused on preventing and ending Homelessness in Portland.
As for the present day work, back in June of 2018, city staff, having been directed by the council to find a suitable location in the city for a new shelter facility, came forward with a recommendation to place the facility on the Barron Center Campus at 1045 Brighton Avenue. We were in the process of considering this location when, as noted in Life is What Happens When You're Making Shelter Plans, the committee asked city staff to re-examine all available property in the city and create an updated list of potential sites for the new Homeless Services Center. At that time, we also re-considered the shelter model we were proposing and asked city staff to bring forward more information about the possibility of the city operating multiple smaller facilities instead one large facility.
They did exactly that and presented their findings to the HHS & PS Committee on November 13, 2018. You can find the materials for that presentation here.
At our November 27th HHS & PS meeting, after considering input from area providers, the public, and the full council, the committee directed staff to pursue the single shelter model: one central shelter facility operated by the city for single adults of up to 150 beds.
Using this information staff refined the list further, and on January 22nd, they brought forward an updated list with 14 possible sites.
- Thames St. Parking Lot
- Barron Center
- 1819 Westbrook St.
- Former West School
- Franklin Reserve/Boyd Street Gardens
- Riverside Industrial Park
- 622 Auburn St.
- County Way
- 3 Hutchins Street
- Rosemont Fire Station
- Angelo’s Acre
- 33 Portland St.
- 83 Middle St.
- Warren Ave. Realty Site
Psst! You can see the materials that were presented along with this list in the Committee Packet for January 22nd.
As I was working through my packet in preparation for the January 22nd meeting, I realized that there were several questions I needed answered before I could begin making decisions about which locations were truly feasible for what we wanted to do. To help myself sort through it, I created a matrix which I brought to the meeting for the committee to discuss.
After some deliberation, the committee added a few additional questions to the matrix. That has given us a pretty good list of criteria to use as we evaluate these sites. You can download the blank matrix below.
Even without the matrix completed, the committee was able to eliminate a few sites from consideration on January 22nd: The Barron Center, the Former West School, and the Rosemont Fire Station. We also added one site that city staff had removed back onto the list: 1386 Riverside Street.
We discussed removing Franklin Reserve, also known as Boyd Street Gardens or Boyd Street Farm, because it is a city park, and was designated so in Chapter 18 of the City Code as part of the referendum which reversed the sale of Congress Square Park.
However, since there has been discussion about the boundaries of that parcel and whether or not the entire parcel was designated as a park, we requested that city staff get to the bottom of that once and for all before removing it from the list.
- Thames St. Parking Lot (city owned),
- 1819 Westbrook St. (city owned)
- Riverside Industrial Park (city owned) - behind 600-636 Riverside Street
- 622 Auburn St. (city owned)
- County Way (could be city owned through potential negotiation with County/State) - land near the Cumberland County Jail
- 3 Hutchins Street (city owned)
- Angelo’s Acre (city owned) - on Commercial Street, between Park St and the bridge, across from Free Range Fish & Lobster
- 33 Portland St. (city owned)
- 83 Middle St. (city owned)
- Warren Ave. Realty Site (privately owned) - 750 Warren Avenue
- 1386 Riverside Street (privately owned)
I'm hoping we can get the list down to 4-6 sites for serious consideration. From there, we'll listen to public input and do what we need to do to feel like we can make a good recommendation as a committee. That could involve site visits or further research, but we'll certainly try to move deftly, knowing how important it is that we replace the Oxford Street Shelter as soon as possible.
Getting a new facility in place will enable us to provide a safer environment for clients, staff, and the community. It will also help to move people from homelessness to stability even more efficiently and effectively than we are now.
Ideally, we would have a recommendation to the Council this spring, but timelines are hard to predict, particularly when dealing with such sensitive and complex issues, so we'll get there when we get there.
To stay apprised of new developments, check back here, and click the "Homeless Services Center" link in the right sidebar.