160-unit St. Johns shelter underway

Construction crews have begun to build the planned City of Portland 160-unit homeless shelter north of St. Johns. The site at 10505 N. Portland Road, near Columbia Slough, will have 90 8×8-foot sleeping pods with heat and air conditioning, and 70 slots for RVs and vehicles.

Homeless campsite on N. Portland Rd. starts construction
Homeless campsite on N. Portland Rd. starts construction

The North Portland Road Shelter will be the tenth facility that the city has constructed to create housing for homeless persons living on public rights of way and residential streets. The Peninsula Safe Rest Village (PSRV) in University Park and the Sunderland RV Safe Park Village northeast of Kenton are part of the city network. 

“It’s a humanitarian crisis,” said Brandy Westerman, who oversees the city’s sheltering efforts. Public reaction has ranged from support for the site’s potential to relieve homelessness to opponents who see it as an intrusion into the neighborhood. Extremists set fire to a forklift, bulldozer and excavator at the site the night of Jan. 7. An anonymous post on the self-described anarchist website, Rose City Counter-Info, claimed responsibility. Portland Fire & Rescue and police are investigating the incident.

City staff are planning for homeless individuals already living North Portland to be the first occupants of the facility, which should be welcome news to neighbors. Workers began grading the North Portland Road site after the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality approved the city’s plan for managing contaminated land. 

After paving is completed, Urban Alchemy will manage the facility, expected to open this summer. The site will provide shared kitchens, showers, laundry and on-site mental health and addiction services. Residents will need to work on a personal housing, health and employment plan as a condition of their stay.

Urban Alchemy also manages PSRV the homeless facility along the railroad cut in west University Park.

Hank Smith, Mayor Ted Wheeler’s policy advisor on the North Portland Road Shelter, is working to establish a group to arrange a Good Neighbor Agreement between the city and the St. Johns Neighborhood Association.