Homeless will find refuge at Oregon Convention Center


Metro and Multnomah County officials are working to protect the homeless from COVID-19

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Before the threat of COVID-19, the Oregon Convention Center was scheduled to host one of the largest gem and jewelry shows in the country this weekend.

But instead of vendors rolling out jewelry, county workers will be rolling out beds.

Officials with Metro and Multnomah County’s Joint Office of Homeless Services are doing what they can to protect the homeless population from the coronavirus.

Denis Theriault with the Joint Office of Homeless Services said they’re making room for up to 140 people to sleep at the convention center. Metro and county officials came up with the plan less than a week ago.

“I’ve never seen so many people work so quickly and move so many barriers over such a short period of time,” Theriault said. “People have been working 15, 16, 18 hours a day for the last six days to get this together.”

The Oregon Convention Center, which is owned by Metro, has not held any events since Gov. Kate Brown banned gatherings of 250 people or more on March 11.

One man who wanted to remain anonymous told KOIN 6 News he’s dealt with homelessness for several years and feels the shelters can sometimes be cramped.

“It’s row after row after row,” he said.

Officials are also creating a shelter at the Charles Jordan Community Center.

With two new temporary shelters in place, officials will be able to maintain a safe distance between beds.

“I think it’s a really good thing — being able to flatten that curve and being able to reduce the stress on the most vulnerable is probably the most important thing we can do right now,” said Metro President Lynn Peterson.

Multnomah County officials said they’re even considering additional sites for more temporary shelters. They’re also providing motel vouchers to those who are medically vulnerable.

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