Portland Considering VOA Property for Outdoor Shelter

Update: The VOA property will not become a shelter site

City of Portland staff are in talks with the Volunteers of America (VOA) Oregon regarding the property at 8815 NE Glisan Street. As reported by the Oregonian/OregonLive on February 18th, multiple sources say this site could become an alternative outdoor shelter for up to 150 people experiencing houselessness. VOA Oregon CEO Kay Toran confirmed on February 20th that the City is seeking short-term use of the vacant NE Glisan Street property through a posted message on the organization’s website.

VOA Oregon purchased the large property on NE Glisan Street from Central Bible Church in May of 2021. In an interview published in the Montavilla News last October, Kay Toran outlined a multi-year plan to transform the 5.8-acre site into a headquarters and treatment center for the organization. Those plans continue to develop and will lead to the eventual demolition of existing structures on the property. Groundbreaking on new buildings is several years away, and at the time of the interview, Toran did not know what temporary uses that site would support.

Although the VOA Oregon message does not specifically reference the City’s proposed short-term use for the Glisan Street land, the statement does reference an “opportunity to assist them with the homeless crisis here in Portland.” The Portland Mayor’s office is currently evaluating several sites that could handle 150 people, possibly increasing to 250 people at a later expansion. In two community engagement sessions held by the Mayor’s Office in late 2022, staff outlined their goal for six professionally managed camping sites with an initial capacity for 100 tents and support for 150 residents. City Council would have the ability to approve an additional 100 people at a site sometime after the first phase completes. These managed outdoor shelters aim to provide better access to physical, mental, and behavioral health services for those living outdoors. Clustering large numbers of people together would allow support staff to better assist people into more permeant housing and access to other resources.

VOA Oregon CEO message from February 20th, 2023

The residents would receive two meals and a hefty snack in the proposed plan. People would need to be invited to live at the site and must provide legal names and dates of birth so support staff can help them access services. Each location would have one entrance and exit where people would need to surrender any weapons. All shelter sites would have 24-hour on-site management to assist residents and enforce a 1,000-foot no-camping perimeter around the property. A slide deck from the second meeting outlines additional camp amenities and restrictions for residents.

The final selection of the large outdoor shelter sites is ongoing. The Mayor’s office has yet to engage in conversation with Montavilla’s neighborhood or business associations regarding this site. Although, if the VOA organ site is selected, the City staff have committed to working with those groups and entering into a Good Neighbor Agreement for site operations. As this process moves forward, residents and business owners in the area should expect to receive more details about what will happen to the NE Glisan Street site.

Update: VOA Oregon CEO Kay Toran updated the organization’s posted message on February 22nd, 2023. Toran clarifies that discussions with the City are preliminary, and VOA Oregon has not signed any agreement. She assures people that they will consider all perspectives while evaluating the proposal. “Before formalizing any lease agreement, we need to conduct a thorough review of the proposed operational plans and assess their potential impact on residents, neighbors, and the community at large,” the statement says. Toran also notes that the organization’s long-term plans for the property are unchanged, regardless of any potential short-term use by the City of Portland.

VOA Oregon CEO message from February 22th, 2023
Mayor’s Office Community Stakeholder Meeting #1
Mayor’s Office Community Stakeholder Meeting #2

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