Hazelwood motel shelters homeless

Officials say this move will protect ‘highest-risk guests’ – sheltering vulnerable outer East Portland people in the Gateway district …

Homeless persons staying here, at the East Portland Community Center, in the Hazelwood neighborhood, are now moving to motel rooms not far away.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

Starting in June, the Joint Office of Homeless Services (JOHS) and Multnomah County’s Emergency Operations Center began operating the Chestnut Tree Inn, on SE Stark Street backing up to I-205, as a homeless shelter for women assessed as having some of the highest risks of hospitalization and death from the COVID-19 coronavirus.

“At the same time, staff have begun winding down shelter operations at the East Portland Community Center, which opened in early April as a physical-distancing extension shelter,” said JOHS Communications Coordinator Denis Theriault.

The Joint Office of Homeless Services is renting 58 rooms here, at the Chestnut Tree Inn, for a fee of $64 per night.

“The transition to motel-like spaces is driven by public health guidance, and offers an urgent and more immediate option for protecting people’s lives in the face of COVID-19’s expected ‘second wave’,” explained Theriault.

The JOHS is reportedly renting 58 rooms at the motel at the rate of $64 per night, as they relocate more than 300 beds of congregate shelter capacity from area community centers to various locations across the city.

A worker stands by to welcome homeless guests to their new lodgings in the Gateway district.

Without a vaccine or treatment for COVID-19 on the horizon, JOHS officials said the disproportionate risks of serious and fatal symptoms for people experiencing homelessness will remain and could grow.

“The JOHS is planning how to move beds into spaces that can be available for the next 12 to 18 months, while also providing better spaces where those most at risk to self-isolate,” Theriault said.

It’s unclear how long the Chestnut Tree Inn will be a temporary lodging for guests without a home.

Renting out other commercial lodgings is likely in the future; the JOHS is considering the timing and sequence of transitions, beyond the opening of the Chestnut Tree Inn and the closing of East Portland Community Center – but those transitions have yet to be announced.

No one staying in a current physical distancing shelter will be losing a bed because of these changes, Theriault pointed out. “Overall shelter capacity, so long as funding continues, as well as the Joint Office’s commitment to physical distancing in all shelters, will also remain unchanged.”

© 2020 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News™



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