County opens new Foster Road ‘Laurelwood’ shelter

Now called the ‘Laurelwood Center’, here’s a look inside this outer East Portland facility, just days before it opened …

Community members get their first look at the commons area of the Multnomah County “Laurelwood Center”, sited in the Foster-Powell neighborhood.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

Just days before it began sheltering specific types of homeless in late August, elected officials, staff, and neighbors came for a look at the new $4 million shelter at 6130 SE Foster Road – now named the “Laurelwood Center”.

Many residents and business people had expressed deep concern when Multnomah County officials announced their plans to open the shelter in the area in late 2017. This led to a meeting in late December of that year which attracted a more-than-capacity crowd.

>> To read “Foster Road homeless shelter plan raises curiosity and fear”, CLICK HERE.

Colorful chalk artwork is welcomes residents of the new shelter, inviting them to stay as long as they want.

Transitions Projects Senior Director of Programs Stacy Borke stands in the private, access-controlled outdoor courtyard that includes a “pet relief” area for resident’s companion animals.

At the August shelter preview event, Senior Director of Programs Stacy Borke for Transitions Projects (the operator of the shelter) told how stakeholders had come together on the project.

“To accommodate the concerns of the business association and the neighborhood associations, an unprecedented part of the project was a creation of the Steering Committee, under the leadership of Multnomah County Commissioner Jessica Vega Pederson,” Borke told East Portland News.

“At these committee meetings, comprised of representatives of all of the neighborhood association representatives and business owners in the area expressed what they wanted to see in a shelter coming into the area,” Borke said.

Community members get a first look at the sleeping area, in their tour of the shelter.

An example she gave was making on-site space for clients who bring pets, for a large “pet relief area” in the private secured courtyard.

“The committee also developed a ‘Good Neighbor Agreement’ that covers all sorts of aspects about what is expected of the program, [including] issues like safety, trash, and what it means to be neighborly; and, establishes really clear communication guidelines for everyone,” said Borke. “And, going forward, we’ll have regular ‘Advisory Committee’ meetings, bringing people together  to talk about how the program is going, and how the community can get involved here.”

A ‘low barrier’ shelter
Asked whether it is a “low barrier shelter”, as originally announced, Borke replied, “Yes, the program is really accessible, helping people who are sleeping unsheltered to reduce every barrier there is to coming inside.

“So, people can bring their pets, their partners, and their possessions,” explained Borke. “The goal is trying to help people come inside and reconnect with services.”

A concern about the “low barrier” concept expressed by some neighbors is that the shelter accepts those individuals who might be alcohol and drug affected. “Being sober or abstinent is not a requirement for the program; But, we have expectations around [drug or alcohol] use, and rules about behavior, bringing it or using it on site,” Borke said.

Neighbors David Potts and Char Pennie try out one of the double, couple-sized beds in the new Laurelwood Center.

A 24-hour, full-service shelter
Although the legal occupancy plaque states “Maximum Occupancy 286”, the Laurelwood Center will host only 120 people: Women, couples, and with a priority for to those with disabilities, who are over age 55, and veterans. It is “100% accessible”.

Staff services, including housing connections and a built-in medical clinic, have an operating budget of $1.3 million per year.

This shelter model specifically helps people who want to “transition off living on the streets,” says Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler.

Mayor praises ‘Navigation Center’ model
“I came out here today to support his great example of how we, as a city, are thinking more intentionally about the kind of shelter we are providing,” Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler told us upon his arrival that evening.

“This shelter is a Navigation Center model shelter, which means it is not just an overnight place to stay,” Wheeler pointed out. “When people come here to stay, some will be connected to mental health services, others to addiction services, still others might get job coaching, or job-related services.

“The bottom line here is that it is not just a warehouse for people – it is to make sure that the residents have a clear transition strategy off the streets, into housing, and reconnecting with their future.”

The Mayor praised the community stakeholders for their partnership with the project. “People been very receptive, and they understand that this could be a game changer for a lot of people who are on the streets.”

“This shelter represents hope,” says Multnomah County Commissioner Jessica Vega Pederson.

County Commissioner acknowledges contentious start
“Today is a day for celebration; [this shelter] represents the very best of our community,” said Multnomah County District 3 Commissioner Jessica Vega Pederson, during her formal remarks.

“I recall how, when it was announced in December, 2017, not everyone was as happy as we are today,” reminisced Pederson. “At the meeting in the SEIU hall, across the street, I was listening to questions, concerns, and feedback from neighbors and businesspeople.”

After her remarks, Vega Pederson told East Portland News, “This shelter represents hope; it also represents stability and a new chance – not just for the people who are staying here, so they can take that next step and make the changes in their life that they want.”

Foster-Powell business owner Matthew Micetic urges the community to stay engaged with the new shelter to help it succeed.

Business leader welcomes shelter
A Past President of the Foster Area Business Association, owner of Red Castle Games and a new commercial property owner in the area, Matthew Micetic commented, “Homelessness is something that affects us as a community every day.

“Through the community engagement process, and influenced by our neighborhood, there have been innovative solutions found in the process of establishing a new shelter in our city,” Micetic said.

Speaking to the about 100 people gathered at the event, Micetic beseeched his neighbors, “Keep engaged! By being engaged, we can make this a success story of how people can transition away from [living on] the street, and change their lives.

At the main desk in the Laurelwood Center, Transition Projects Graveyard Shift Supervisor Karla Rivera-Salgado says she’s ready to welcome residents.

There isn’t a webpage for the Laurelwood Center, but CLICK HERE to open a PDF of the shelter’s “FAQ” sheet; or, contact the manager, Angel Roman, at angel.roman@tprojects.org or by calling (503)280-4776.

© 2019 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News™

 

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