The Sgt. Jerome Sears US Army Reserve Center
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  • The Sgt. Jerome Sears US Army Reserve Center
The City of Portland will pay to shuttle homeless women and couples from several spots in the central city to a new shelter near SW Portland's Multnomah Village over the next six months.

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According to information released by Mayor Charlie Hales' office, the new shelter, an old US Army Reserve Center on SW Multnomah, could house 200 people, though officials plan to start out smaller.

The location of the new shelter's no surprise. The Mercury reported that the mayor was looking at the building, formerly the Sgt. Jerome Sears US Army Reserve Center, shortly after Hales signaled he'd ask his colleagues to declare a housing state of emergency in September.

But the notion of shuttling homeless to a shelter is a new paradigm for the city of Portland—one that might play out more as the city looks far and wide for new places to shelter more than 1,800 Portlanders who sleep on the street.

The mayor's announcement coincides with Portland City Council approving $1 million in renovations for the old army building yesterday as part of a fall budget adjustment. Council also approved $1.26 million for shelter services.

"There is a huge willingness right now on the ground to be innovative and try stuff," Hales' chief of staff, Josh Alpert, tells the Mercury. The mayor's office doesn't know when it'll open the new shelter, but says it's paying Transitions Projects to manage the space. The amount of that contract isn't clear.

The shelter's slated to be open at night only, from roughly 6 pm to 9 am the mayor's office says, and will be open initially only to single women.

"If the shelter operator believes it can be done—given the layout of the building and its staffing capacity—they may invite women and their partners to stay as well," says an FAQ on the project, noting a lack of shelter options for opposite sex couples in the city.

Most interesting, though, is the shuttle service Hales' office says its going to enlist to pick up people at "several central city pick-up and drop-off sites." The nearest bus stop to the Sears Center is about a half-mile away.

"It's expected the vast majority of shelter guests will be transported by this system," the FAQ says.

Transportation to downtown services has been a key issue in the city, as officials look for viable places to house the homeless. It's been a repeated sticking point for a Central Eastside site where the city want's to move the homeless rest area Right 2 Dream Too, and also a concern for Hazelnut Grove, a new organized tent camp near North Greeley and Interstate.

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Hales is clearly hoping to preempt any concern that neighbors may have with the shelter, at 2730 SW Multnomah.

"There is an expectation that guests do not spend excessive time in the neighborhood and
respect neighbors and the community," the FAQ says. "The operator will voice an ongoing expectation to guests that drug and alcohol use, aggressive behavior, and other behaviors that are disruptive to the community are unacceptable."

The announcement marks the second time this week Portland saw news of a new shelter. On Tuesday, downtown's First Congregational United Church of Christ revealed it would host a 13-bed shelter for homeless veterans.

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