Gateway business people hear plan to end homelessness

Find out why the Gateway Area Business Association hosted this meeting in outer East Portland with the founder of ‘Shelter Portland’…

People  gather in an the East Portland Community Center meeting room to hear Keith Wilson talk about his Shelter Now Portland program.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

Tuesday afternoon, April 25, in the large meeting room of the East Portland Community Center (EPCC), members and guests of the Gateway Area Business Association (GABA) were invited to participate in a special meeting held regarding homelessness.

“We’ve facilitated this meeting, because GABA listens to our members and also feedback from the community,” said Gateway Area Business Association President Nidal Kahl.

“It’s a real challenge to do business in this city, and especially in the Gateway area. Outer East Portland has been really hit hard with the issues homelessness causes,” observed Kahl. “As a Neighborhood Business District, we have the resolve to solve this problem, but we need to talk about it – which is the purpose of this meeting.”

GABA President Nidal Kahl speaks with Keith Wilson, before introducing the program.

As attendees were gathering in the large EPCC Meeting Room, Titan Freight Systems, Inc. President Keith Wilson, also the founder of Shelter Now Portland, spoke with East Portland News.

Shelter Now Portland’s focus is on ending homelessness in a very quick manner, but in a humane way, by looking for ways to improve things for both the housed and the houseless – really quickly,” Wilson began.

“It really focuses on repurposing our community assets,” Wilson said. “It’s like here, at the East Portland Community Center, which served as a Severe Winter Shelter two months ago. Essentially what the Shelter Portland model does is it goes back and uses emergency shelter processes – a model which we’ve used for 100 years – and just scale up in Portland to really help end unsheltered homelessness, quickly.

Keith Wilson begins his presentation.

“This means using every asset available, like the Community Center,” Wilson sent on. “I’ve got shelters that are opereating right now in churches that open at 9 PM and close at 7 AM. – so, we’re saving lives, hundreds of lives, already. ‘When people are sleeping in their own bed, we are saving lives’ – that’s a way of defining success.”

Wilson said they’ve been “testing this” for six years. “In outer East Portland I have a location in the Lents neighborhood, at the Central Nazarene Church; and at night, when the facility is not being otherwise used, we are saving 45 people every night, with this low-cost program.

“We’ve got two more [shelter] operators interested, including the Northeast Community Center [an independent non-profit community center in the Hollywood neighborhood]; and Beacon Village [Bridgeport United Church of Christ 621 NE 76th Avenue],” Wilson pointed out.

Asked how business people in the Gateway District should help – they are daily dealing with homeless problems – Wilson paused briefly before replying. “We need to ‘scale this up’ immediately, to end unsheltered homelessness, full stop. We need to treat this situation like [natural] disaster relief.

This is not a situation where we have time, because these [homeless] individuals are dying, one every two days, on the streets, and these people are our sons, our daughters, and our brothers and sisters,” emphasized Wilson.

“As far as the Gateway area Business Association is concerned, as soon as we start saving lives, we can start improving the livability for everybody – both the homeless and the homed – it’s really that simple,” summarized Wilson.

Keith Wilson talks about the Shelter Now Portland program.

About 36 were in the room when Wilson began his program, entitled “End Unsheltered Homelessness”.

Wilson said that Shelter Now Portland is an alliance of organizations and individuals working collectively across sectors. Their core team – representing business, community-based organizations, service providers, neighborhoods, and people with lived experience of houselessness – serves as the coordinating body; providing governance, strategy, and advocacy leadership.

His presentation started off by defining how America’s housing has changed over the past 70 years.

During his presentation, Wilson peppered the audience with numerous graphics presenting demographic data and other information.

One graphic that caught the audience’s attention was titled “Portland is our nation’s homelessness MAGNET”. It showed:

“Homeless upon Arrival” from Multnomah County = 21%

“Out of State”

Los Angeles = 20%
San Francisco = 8%
Seattle/King County = 5%
Oakland, CA = 3%

Talking about the 2023 Portland Tri County Point and Time Count is Keith Wilson.

Part of the discussion concerned the 2023 Portland Tri County Point in Time Count; however he only had one handout available of the survey form used in that survey, which guests passed around.

To find out more about the 2023 Portland Tri County Point in Time Count CLICK HERE.

Keith Wilson says how the Shelter Now Portland model is already helping unhoused Portlanders.

“Building temporary shelters is building permanent homelessness,” opined Wilson as he advocated how the Shelter Now Portland model can solve the problem.

To find out more about Shelter Now Portland, see their official website: CLICK HERE.

© 2023 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News™


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