The Salvation Army opened its new 34-bed women's emergency shelter on NW 5th and Burnside this afternoon:
The center, which has been funded with money from the city, property owner John Beardsley, and the mayor's Street Access For Everyone committee, also has a day access center in front, which will provide somewhere for women to get off the streets between 7am and 11pm. The center is moving from its old location at 131 SW Ankeny, to make way for drug treatment beds there to be used by the city's service coordination team (that's the city's hazy drug free zone replacement program that's not written down anywhere...).
Commissioner Randy Leonard was there. He said he thought I'd given him a hard time about opening the shelter. I said I was delighted with it, but that it's important for public figures to be held accountable. Like when they start programs that place people on lists for enhanced prosecution, they should make sure somebody actually writes the programs down, instead of simply growing misty-eyed about "giving people a chance."
I do think that the women's shelter is a good thing (75% of homeless women will be sexually assaulted within the first 24 hours on the street, so Lord knows they need somewhere safe to stay). But my pleasure in seeing the center open was despite the fact that Mike Kuykendall of the Portland Business Alliance--principle force behind the evil sit/lie ordinance--was there grinning broadly at the ribbon cutting, and that John Hren, the head of the downtown rent-a-cop firm Portland Patrol, Inc. was stood around taking photos. I guess I'm just uncomfortable with the language of chance-giving when it's accompanied by targeting homeless people for criminalization on a policy level, and when politicians grin and go along with it for the small town greater good. Call me a cosmopolitan stickler if you like.
Still. Stephanie Dippel, who stayed at the old shelter for 158 days and is now working locally and staying at a downtown apartment, said she's thrilled with the new look. "It's like the Marriott compared to the old place," she said. Meanwhile Fay Schuyler, who manages the program, showed me around. "We managed to move the entire program in a day without interrupting services," she said, clearly thrilled to be in the new location.
Good luck to the new women's shelter. Let's hope it survives the rent-jacking in the imminent gentrification of Old Town.