Portland leases 3 more hotels to shift Covid-19 most-vulnerable from shelters or shared housing

Tim McCormick


Yet another article in which the only quoted sources are officials (Mayor, and Joint Office spokesperson Denis Theriault, and the news peg is an official action. You would never know from Oregonian homelessness reporter Molly Harbarger's story that others in the community have views on this or might have other proposals. Or that Commissioner Hardesty harshly criticized the funding programs recently in City Council hearing for so predominantly focusing on people already in shelter or housing, rather than the unsheltered.

Or that, contrary to the story's and the officials' framing of this effort as for "the vulnerable homeless," homelessness experts widely argue that *all* unhoused, particularly those unsheltered, are highly vulnerable to Covid-19 and other health/safety issues, and also that the congregate shelters which City/County continue to primarily depend on are considered highly unsafe in general.  Or that there are broad community efforts, going back years, to develop alternative shelter models to help more people sooner, in more private and thus safe ways than these traditional shelters. 

For me, this sort of steadily disappointing, narrow, context-less, official/dominant-voice oriented media coverage of homelessness issues is a key reason to build alternative fora such PDX Shelter Forum. We just so clearly get so little of the picture, or possibilities, or range of voices/views, from traditional media. 

"The Joint Office of Homeless Services, funded by the city and Multnomah County, opened three more motels this month to house people who had been lodged in temporary emergency coronavirus shelters in public buildings. There are now four such motels, two of which the city and county have an option to buy.

"The two governing councils agreed to spend more than $22M from federal CARES Act money on the motel initiative, which includes providing meals and social services such as housing placement, employment help and case management.

"Another $11M is allocated for leasing and operating two motels that hold people who are sick with COVID-19 or show symptoms of the contagious and potentially deadly disease. Those motels also accept people who aren’t homeless, but live in houses or apartments that don’t have space for them to fully isolate."

"Neither the city nor county boards have so far agreed to purchase the motels they are leasing. Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler appeared to indicate he was open to buying the motels, which he said could later be repurposed into affordable housing. [...]

"Commissioners from both the city and county balked in May at the price tag of leasing motels for use as shelters, saying they wanted to get more than short-term housing from their investment." [...]

Tim McCormick
Editor at HousingWiki, Organizer at Village Collaborative
Portland, Oregon 

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