How much does it cost for a 100-bed homeless shelter tent in Portland? Take a wild guess…

by DCG

One big expensive tent/Photo from Harbor of Hope

Doesn’t matter as there are always taxpayer funds to cover the costs.

FYI: From the brief search I was able to do about this private developer, Homer Williams, it looks like he’s got a questionable history with his developments.

As reported by Oregon LiveDespite promises of a private-sector solution to homelessness, the city-county Joint Office of Homeless Services has agreed to pitch in at least $1 million to make sure a new shelter actually opens.

The 100-bed shelter, built inside a tent-like structure in Northwest Portland at the base of the Broadway Bridge, was billed as the business community’s answer to local government’s inability to get people off the street.

Developer Homer Williams announced the plan with a starting $1.5 million contribution from Columbia Sportswear CEO Tim Boyle. The project quickly began to run behind schedule and over budget.

The “navigation center” model of shelter is a new one for Portland. Williams and former Portland Development Commission director Don Mazziotti wanted to replicate what they saw in San Francisco and other cities that have used this model that combines traditional shelter space with intensive help from service providers to help the people who stay at the shelter get into permanent housing as quickly as possible. It will also have laundry facilities, showers and other amenities.

Through Harbor of Hope, Williams and Mazziotti’s nonprofit, project officials estimated that it would cost $3.5 million to get the shelter built and running for the first year. By December, they began to worry that the $3.5 million would only cover construction.

But warning signs showed up as early as last summer.

Harbor of Hope broke ground in April on land donated by Portland’s urban renewal agency, which will retain ownership. The city waived permit fees, as well.

The cost to clean up the lead, arsenic, fossil fuels and other contaminants on the site ended up higher than expected. Officials reported at the end of July that environmental cleanup was earmarked as $100,000 in the budget. But Harbor of Hope had already spent $600,000 on it.

Harbor of Hope leaders also found that construction costs were going to be more expensive than predicted. By the time the original $3.5 million was raised, the project cost had doubled.

While the mayor’s office had said the city had no plans to finance a shelter that wasn’t feasible, city and county officials have wanted more shelter beds in the Old Town Chinatown area for years. They first saw an empty warehouse on Hoyt Street as an option, but that location would have taken up to $10 million to make usable.

So while Williams and others vowed that Harbor of Hope would not require any taxpayer money, officials saw this shelter as a cheaper option than building or renovating their own.

The Joint Office of Homeless Services agreed to contribute the first year’s operating budget, which will pay for staff, programming and day-to-day needs at the shelter.

“Our elected leaders and service providers don’t get enough credit for their success in adding hundreds of shelter beds across our community,” Williams said in a statement. “It’s difficult and expensive to find and invest in good sites, close to the right services.”

Williams has pitched other ideas in the past that have largely gone nowhere. He gained some traction under former Mayor Charlie Hales with an idea to turn marine Terminal 1 into a homeless shelter campus but lost city council support when it came to who would run the shelter.

He has also proposed a land trade to build workforce housing in industrial-zoned areas and asked Multnomah County to continue to pay the upkeep costs of Wapato Jail instead of selling it immediately so that Harbor of Hope could evaluate whether the nonprofit could make an offer on the building.

But on Harbor of Hope’s 2017 tax forms, the organization was nearly $110,000 in the red, due to a more than $100,000 loan that covered expenses while Williams and others raised little more than $8,000.The year before Harbor of Hope reported nearly $130,000 raised — most of it gone by the end of the year due to travel, salary for Mazziotti and payments to contractors.

Read the whole story here.

DCG

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