Tag: 8815 NE Glisan

VOA Site No Longer Considered for Outdoor Shelter

The City of Portland will not pursue a Volunteers of America (VOA) Oregon owned property for shelter use. On March 8th, VOA Oregon’s CEO, Kay Toran, explained in a public letter that the site at 8815 NE Glisan Street did not meet the City’s requirements for their tent-based housing and support service hub. The Oregonian/OregonLive revealed on February 18th that the 5.8-acre VOA property could become an alternative outdoor shelter for up to 150 people experiencing houselessness. However, those early conversations did not yield a short-term lease, and City staff will continue searching for new properties elsewhere.

The VOA letter says that the site is larger than the City needed for an encampment, and the sloped parking lot was not ideal for their planned use. VOA Oregon purchased the 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 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.

This update follows weeks of community conversations over the potential use of the NE Glisan Street property. The message also arrived the same day as several Montavilla residents expressed their concerns at City Council. Those conversations also included comments regarding two Multnomah County-owned sites in development. Although the VOA site is no longer in consideration for houseless support, the City will continue its efforts to find a solution to unsanctioned camping in Portland.

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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.

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Volunteers of America Buys Glisan Property

In May, the Oregon branch of Volunteers Of America (VOA) bought a large property on NE Glisan Street from Central Bible Church. The property spans two blocks, encompassing the large church building at 8815 NE Glisan Street and the unpaved parking lot across NE 90th Ave.

In a message from the Central Bible Church about the sale, they described VOA’s intentions for the property. VOA of Oregon runs programs throughout the State that focus on serving the elderly, youth, individuals released from incarceration, people with disabilities, and recovering addicts. At this facility, they will repurpose the existing building and campus to expand the availability of programs they currently offer in Portland. Although VOA is in the early stages of planning, some services expected at this site include the VOA Family Relief Nursery, recovery services, and counseling services.

The Central Bible Church supported its members for 89 years. However, financial difficulties forced the organization to cease operations last year. They held their final service on Sunday, February 23rd, 2020. In a letter to the congregation, church leaders explained that the staffing levels and size of the property were more than what members could support. Mounting utility costs for the 60,000 square-foot facility outpaced its active use, and 65% of the operating budget went to employee-related costs, 15% greater than similar faith-based operations.

Church leadership also pointed to new seismic requirements in the Portland code and over one million dollars in deferred maintenance as deciding factors in the church’s decision to shut down. Staff gifted historically significant documents and pictures from Central Bible Church to the Multnomah University library, which will become part of the school’s permanent archive. Displaced members and leaders created a new church in NE Portland called Stone Table Church and are slowly building up that congregation.

Central Bible Church leadership was happy to have sold to an organization in line with its goals. Like the previous owners, Volunteers Of America is a faith-based organization. Unfortunately, the sale has displaced the SkateChurch that shared the property with Central Bible Church. SkateChurch is currently seeking a new location. 

With such a large property, VOA has many options to develop the land further. Although, there are significant changes needed to the existing structures to meet future requirements. Look for the long-vacant building return to use soon, as it transforms to serve its new function in the community.

View of unpaved parking lot across NE 90th Ave from the main property