Open house held to show off Wy’east Shelter

Find out why the homeless services agency held a party at its new men’s shelter in the Mill Park neighborhood …

In the parking lot of Plaza 122, next to the outer East Portland Wy’east Shelter, neighbors and those staying at the all-men facility dine and mingle.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

Just south of the brick government services building where the “Wy’east Shelter for Men” opened in June, the staff of Transition Projects and allied organizations hosted a “Parking Lot Eat and Greet” party on the evening of September 21.

Several residents of the Mill Park neighborhood say they were caught by surprise about the two-story brick building at 1415 S.E. 122nd Avenue would be turned into a men’s homeless shelter, taking the 61 men from the shut down temporary shelter at the Multnomah County Hansen Building – primarily, veterans and men with disabilities over the age of 55.

Serving Latinx food at the event is volunteer Nathan Widdicombe.

“This is a ‘low barrier’, 24 hour, seven-day-a-week facility for 100 men each night,” said Transition Projects Executive Director George Devendorf.

“These are men who are trying to regain stability, connect service they may need to end homelessness and get a more permanent ‘roof over their head’, and go on with their lives,” Devendorf told East Portland News.

For community leaders, businesses, and neighbors to meet in fellowship and build common ground “is the purpose of this gathering,” says Transition Projects Executive Director George Devendorf.

About the “Parking Lot Eat and Greet” – Devendorf explained, “It’s important to hold gatherings like this so that neighbors can meet their new neighbors here.

“Some [Mill Park residents] may have had some understandable concerns before the shelter opened; but, since opening day, we found them to be overwhelmingly supportive of what’s going on here and they haven’t reported any significant concerns, up to this point,” Devendorf said.

As a tour gets underway, Transition Projects Director of Shelter Services Matt Olguin holds open the door to the Wy’east Shelter.

In addition to providing men with a place to sleep, Devendorf said that staff members provide services to those staying there, including housing assistance, various forms of wellness support, help to improve their physical and mental health, and also help finding employment opportunities.

“Really, we’re helping them prepare the way to get back into housing, and then be successful in that housing,” summarized Devendorf.

The “day area” of the Wy’east Shelter provides a place for guests to be, when not receiving services or sleeping in bunk rooms.

Especially for older military veterans, or those with a disability, providing help “really takes a community that is welcoming; we know the road out of homelessness is hard – but it is much easier when those who are trying to end homelessness can feel supported, and feel part of the wider community,” reflected Devendorf.

The term “outdoor showers” conjures up a bleak image; but these modern bathing units are private, and heated.

During the brief tour of the building, a neighbor asked if being “low barrier” means that those who stay can still drink alcohol and use drugs.

In an office, such as this one, those who stay at the shelter can access many services.

“That’s true, but what’s neat is that we help them toward being clean and sober; no other low-barrier shelter offers this unique opportunity for them to discover their own route to recovery and then, hopefully, transition into one of our sober living environments or get housing on their own terms,” explained Transition Projects Director of Shelter Services Matt Olguin.

Hopefully, the support services offered at the Wy’east Shelter will help men find homes, jobs, and a more successful life.

© 2018 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News™



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