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New Milwaukie Avenue homeless shelter opens

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The county homeless service center and shelter is open in Westmoreland


DAVID F. ASHTON - Officials and guests tour the new Willamette Center homeless shelter and service center now open in north Westmoreland on S.E. Milwaukie Avenue. Multnomah County's new 120-bed homeless shelter and homeless services agency – the "Willamette Center", in the former St. Vincent de Paul building, at 5120 S.E. Milwaukie Avenue – opened as scheduled on Wednesday, November 16.

The building, across the Westmoreland-Brooklyn entrance to the Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge and the Springwater Trail, was dedicated at a celebration held on two days earlier at the facility.

"For people who are living on the street, it is important to provide shelter," Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury commented to THE BEE at that time.

This, like their other shelters, isn't a "home" – and, in and of itself, doesn't end homelessness either, Kafoury observed. "But it does provide safety from the dangers of the street. In this shelter, residents have access to many different kinds of services, and easy access to transit to help people who are on their way to obtaining permanent housing."

This year, Multnomah County is doubling the number of publicly-funded shelter spaces, adding 650 new beds, including the 120 at this "Willamette Center", Kafoury pointed out.

"I think it's really important that we allow couples to stay together, especially when they are the most vulnerable," Kafoury said. "Asking women to choose between sleeping on the streets with their partner, or coming in [to a shelter] by themselves, isn't a fair choice to ask for.

"This place will allow couples to stay together, to support each other through a difficult time, and eventually end up back in permanent housing," added Kafoury.

About safety and community livability, Kafoury pointed out that that people are already living on the streets. "We're offering a place for people to come indoors, where they will get the services they need, including job training. We're also giving people access to counseling services, 'Rent Well' classes, and on-site and 24 hours a day, seven days a week management.

"The center managers from Transition Projects will have staff working with the folks who are staying here – and also interfacing with the community, making sure that if there are issues that arise, that they are addressed," Kafoury said.

Transition Projects Willamette Center Manager Shaynna Hobson agreed with Kafoury, adding that neighbors were already encouraging neighborhood-dwelling homeless people to sign up for the shelter before it was open.

Having supervised other Transition Projects shelters, Hobson said she's excited that this facility has a kitchen. "We'll have a well-stocked pantry, and can make meals for the guests here. I think that will be so much fun to do for our guests."

Another benefit of this shelter, Hobson said, is that small pets are allowed. "We tend to see a number of small dogs and sometimes cats come in – they are part of their 'family', and want to keep them close by."

"The Willamette Center is not a 'drop-in' program; all guests are required to have a reservation prior to arrival," advised Hobson. "Once a space is reserved, the guest may continue to use the space until they no longer need it." But rules must be followed, to remain in the shelter.

Reservations are handled over the phone at 503/280-4700, or in person at the Transition Projects Day Center at 650 N.W. Irving Street. Those sheltered must either be homeless women or couples, age 18 and over, with priority given for those 55 and older, those with disabilities, and veterans.

Inquiries can be made to manager Hobson via e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. – or call her at 503/488-7760; the 24-hour shelter staff line is 503/488-7750.