PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Jordan Schnitzer announced Thursday that after 18 months of trying to strike a deal to turn the unused Wapato Jail into a homeless shelter, it will be demolished.
Wapato Jail was built in 2004 for $58 million and never housed a single inmate. Multnomah County sold the 525-bed facility to developer Marty Kehoe for $5 million. Schnitzer financed the purchase and took ownership.
His original intent was to build a warehouse but at a press conference Thursday, he said when he first saw the facility, he knew it was worth trying to repurpose it.
Schnitzer wanted to lease it to developer Homer Williams to help solve the homeless crisis in Portland. The facility has space and resources to house and feed hundreds of people.
County officials have previously decided against using the North Portland building as a temporary shelter, saying it’s too far from services and too expensive. It has also been suggested that using a building designed to be a jail would imply homeless people should be in jail.
Schnitzer said many people have pledged money to help fund the shelter project, but without the political support from city and county leaders, it could never work.
“We have no choice but to say ‘that’s it.’ Whether I voted too much with my heart because even today walking through this, I’m sicked that this is going to demolished int he next few months,” Schnitzer said.
He said at this point, he would rather spend his money on philanthropy than the holding cost of the facility.
Schnitzer said the facility will be demolished in the next few months and within a year, a warehouse will be built in its place.