Reshaping the VOA Oregon Site on NE Glisan

Volunteers of America (VOA) Oregon will raze the existing church building and other structures at 8815 NE Glisan Street within eight years. This demolition work will clear the way for the organization’s consolidation of its family safety, substance use, behavioral health, and post-incarceration services. Until the redevelopment begins, the human services organization plans to reuse the existing buildings for some relocated services and potentially as a childcare center.

President of VOA Oregon, Kay Toran, explained in an interview last week that the organization is in the early planning stages. The massive property spans both sides of NE 90th Avenue at Glisan Street, and plans for the new VOA campus will include purpose-built structures to support their various programs. Toran sees this project as an opportunity to change the perception of supportive services. “We tend to marginalize our oppressed populations by the facilities that they visit. So what I want this property to be a property that not only makes good efficient use of our time and efficient use of our professionals but also to lift up the population we serve,” said Toran.

VOA Oregon currently maintains services across many locations in the Portland Metro area. Development of this site will bring together those disparate locations into one destination and give the organization room to expand into other offerings. “We plan to use the 5.8 acres to relocate our existing services into one space, so we have more of a one-stop-shop,” said Toran. Consolidation is just one aspect driving the redevelopment of this multi-lot property. VOA Oregon is in the process of substantially expanding its medical services.

A sizable portion of VOA Oregon’s work centers on addiction treatment, including substance abuse disorder and gambling addiction. With the development of the new facility, they will focus on growing the behavioral health services by becoming a Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic (CCBHC) and a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC). They intend to augment their current behavioral health offerings by providing Primary Health services to clinic patients and their families. This ambitious goal will drastically increase the number of people using VOA Oregon services. “So right now, we serve, over the course of a year, probably 10,000 individuals. That includes families and individuals,” explained Toran. “Well, I think it will grow exponentially because we’re looking at applying for a new service that will support family [healthcare].” This move to include accessible general medical care fills a critical gap in supporting marginalized people. “In our community, health care is not easily accessed by most people who are not insured,” said Toran. VOA Oregon would like to get people on the Oregon Health Plan when possible, but that still leaves people unserved, and this new expansion will help bridge the gap in coverage.

Not all VOA Oregon functions will relocate to the Glisan Street Site when completed. Corporate offices will remain at SE Stark Street and Cesar Estrada Chavez Blvd. The Montavilla location will grow into the central hub for the organization’s client facing services, maximizing all available land for that purpose. “We’re going to use all this space, and that’s where the professional talents of an architect is very important,” explained Toran. Staff will continue working with professional contractors to design the campus over the next four months. At that point, Toran expects to have a loose plan to share regarding the project.

A campus of this size and scope will require extensive planning and substantial donor investment. However, Kay Toran is committed to seeing this project underway with the urgency that current conditions demand. “I can’t tell you whether that’s five years or eight years, but I can say it won’t be ten years.” The site will likely remain empty as plans take shape. Expect to learn more about the NE Glisan Street property early in 2023 and anticipate seeing some temporary use for the building sometime next year.