PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Another social distancing shelter is scheduled to open in the Portland area next Monday. However, despite new shelter spaces opening up, this doesn’t mean that it has become easier for those in need to find a bed.
There isn’t enough traditional shelter space for everyone right now because people need to be spaced at least six feet apart when they’re sleeping, eating, and visiting. That has made it difficult to get people into a shelter if they aren’t already working within the system.
“There’s no shelters anywhere right now,” said Henri Taylor. He has been searching for a sheltered bed in vain. “I’ve been on the bus for three days trying to find shelter beds, trying to find a place to stay, especially with the coronavirus–it’s not easy.”
He waited for a meal off of Burnside where rows of tents and sleeping bags are set up nearby. New intakes into the shelters have slowly ground to a halt.
“I’m also trying to get inside somewhere, so I can take a shower, brush my teeth, wash my hair,” said Taylor.
Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury said so far, the county has been focused on spacing out the beds they already have into new locations to limit the spread of the virus.
“We opened four temporary shelters to create social distancing,” said Kafoury.
The new social distancing shelters have filled at the Oregon Convention Center, Charles Jordan Community Center, and at the East Portland Community Center. The Jupiter Hotel has also opened its rooms to the medically at-risk.
“The turnover rate has not been what it used to be,” said Denis Theriault, spokesperson for Multnomah County Joint Office of Homeless Services. “It slowed down. People are staying in their beds longer than they used to.”
Theriault said those shelters have mostly taken in people who already had beds.
“I think the next big thing is getting to a point where we can resume shelter intakes,” said Theriault.
In the meantime, Theriault said organizations are handing out hygiene products and information to those still on the streets.
“We worked with 14 organizations to contact more than 2,500 people who are staying outside,” said Kafoury.
“We actually created a laminated information card to get to people so we could give them some guidance on how to set up a camp,” said Theriault. “If you have room, try to set up six feet apart.”
Taylor said it’s hard to follow these best practices without a place to go.
“If there’s anyone willing to help us, please help us,” said Taylor.
It’s been a big job to get the beds that they already had spaced out — which was around 1,000 adults. Theriault said another social distancing shelter will open at the Mount Scott Community Center this coming Monday. It will have 70 beds. After those folks are settled, as he mentioned, they may be able to start focusing on new intakes once again.
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