After Multnomah County sold Wapato Jail to real estate developer Marty Kehoe last week, we thought for sure the plan to turn it into a homeless shelter was off the table. We were wrong.
This morning Kehoe announced he has sold a major stake in the property for $5 million—the same price he paid the county for it—to Jordan Schnitzer, that wealthy real estate developer who really, really wants a male heir (more on that unrelated, weird story here). While Kehoe still owns the building, Schnitzer will be tasked with managing the facility.
The sale's the latest in a long-winding debate over the future of the Wapato Jail—the county's never-used 155,400-square-foot detention center in far North Portland. Until finally signing it over to Kehoe last week, the county had grappled with the idea of not selling the building, and converting it into a homeless shelter itself. But, feedback from homeless residents and service providers on why this was such a ill-planned idea convinced the majority of the County Commissioners to sell.
Schnitzer said he's wanting to hand management over to another Portland developer, Homer Williams, who had put in a bid in March to turn Wapato into a homeless shelter. Williams has recently become the mascot for white, wealthy developer men becoming somewhat woke about homelessness issues—but only after irreversibly undermining members of the homeless community.
Recently, Williams announced plans to build a new short-term homeless shelter under the west side of the Broadway Bridge in a deal financially backed by Columbia CEO Tim Boyle (who has his own rocky past with the homeless). Just this morning, Williams announced that NW Natural would be throwing in an additional $75,000 to the project. It's still unknown, however, who will operate the facility.
Despite Schnitzer's interest it putting homeless people in a remote jail, miles away from most homeless services and community centers, Kehoe said he hasn't signed off on any plan to turn Wapato into a homeless shelter. According to the Oregonian, Kehoe plans on using the property for "commercial purposes," not housing.