PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – The ground is graded and the temporary water meters are installed. There are only a few more things to do before Hillsboro’s newest temporary shelter site is ready to offer homeless people a safe place to sleep.
The Safe Rest Pods at the corner of Southwest 17th Avenue and Tualatin Valley Highway will be the city’s first pod-style shelter. The temporary shelter will run through March and after that, the city has plans to build a permanent shelter in the same location.
The city had hoped the shelter would be operating in September, but some construction still needs to be done. The power supply for the site will be finalized within the week, more fencing will be erected, and a mobile shower and huts will be brought in before it’s ready to go.
“We’re just kind of waiting on a few rolling pieces, but I think enrollment [will be] starting later this month or in October,” said Mandy Gawf, community services coordinator for the city of Hillsboro.
As soon as the site is fully prepared, the city will work with Community Connect to help place people in the available beds. Community Connect is the referral management system that helps connect people with all available shelter space in Washington County.
Through the winter, the Safe Rest Pods will host between 30 and 40 people in Conestoga Huts.
The site will be staffed 24/7 to ensure the safety of people living there. Staff will help connect residents with basic hygiene needs, meals and health care. They can also assist with helping people find work, receive disability benefits and locate permanent housing.
There is no limit on how long people can stay, but they will need to go somewhere else when the temporary shelter ends in March.
“We’re working all season long to help move people through and out into housing stability,” said Jes Larson, Supportive Housing Services program manager for Washington County.
She said the county wants to make its shelter programs as accessible as possible and considers this Safe Rest Pods site to be low-barrier.
Residents are not required to be sober, but they are not allowed to use drugs or alcohol at the program site.
Gawf said in the city’s last conversation with Open Door HousingWorks, the non-profit that will be running the shelter, she was told they’re open to allowing pets at the site.
People who stay at the new shelter will be required to follow Open Door’s code of conduct to help keep residents and neighbors safe. Anyone who violates the code of conduct may be asked to leave the program.
The land where the shelter will be located is a block away from Dairy Creek Park. The city used federal American Rescue Plan Act funding to purchase the land.
Gawf said this is an ideal location for several reasons. First, because it had been a vacant site for years and had already attracted camps. And second, because it’s near public transit, within a mile of Open Door’s day center, and close to stores for shopping.
The city notified residents within a mile of the Safe Rest Pods site that a shelter would be constructed there. Each resident received a postcard with information. Gawf said the city did not receive any negative feedback as a result of the notices that were sent out.
“We also conducted a series of engagements with the community about shelter this last winter and in Hillsboro… what we heard overwhelmingly from our community was the need for more shelter,” Larson said.
Gawf said the city did receive mixed reactions to the shelter site when they announced it on social media.
As the shelter comes closer to opening, outreach workers will contact people living on the streets to let them know about the open beds. If people are interested in moving to a shelter, outreach workers will return and help them pack up their belongings.
When the temporary shelter closes in March, the city will begin work to turn the space into a permanent shelter.
An architecture firm will help design the layout and the city plans to use the two buildings on the property for indoor space. The Safe Rest Pods will be constructed into a permanent village with amenities such as heating and cooling for year-round use. The goal is to open the permanent site by winter of 2023.
Eventually, the city hopes the site can house 75 people.
“We couldn’t be more excited about this new shelter opportunity coming to the city of Hillsboro,” Larson said. “We’re grateful for the partnership with Open Door and our community to help provide critical shelter capacity for those who are waiting outside tonight. We can’t work more urgently to help bring on this new shelter.”