More social-distancing shelters open in Portland area


PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The Joint Office of Homeless Services has added more shelters to maintain social distancing efforts in the Portland area during the coronavirus crisis.

A fourth and final social distancing shelter opened this week at the Mt. Scott Community Center in Southeast Portland. It’s accepting people by referrals only. 

Last month, the Jupiter Hotel opened 81 rooms for homeless people who are medically at-risk and need to be isolated. Thirty-eight of those rooms were full by Wednesday. 

A second hotel on Portland’s East Side also made an agreement with Multnomah County to offer 40 rooms for sick families. 

“That demand has not been overwhelming which is a good sign, I think, for our system right now,” said Denis Theriault with the JOHS. 

The sign outside the Jupiter Hotel on East Burnside in Portland, March 26, 2020. (KOIN)

The cost of keeping all of these extra services open to the needy are adding up. The JOHS said all 81 rooms at the Jupiter Hotel are being leased at $79 per night, regardless of whether they’re occupied. 

Theriault estimated all of the safety-net programs combined cost upwards of $3.5 million each month. 

“Maybe we won’t need to spend all of that if we don’t need to open an additional motel setting,” said Theriault. “That $3.5 million assumes full operations. It assumes a few dozen more hotel rooms actually than we currently have but we are looking at our contingency funding to work through that.” 

The $3.5 million also includes the dispersal of supplies to people on the streets, including tarps, sleeping bags and hand sanitizer. It also includes meals for the hungry, whether they’re homeless or not. 

Theriault said the JOHS—which represents a shared commitment between Multnomah County and the City of Portland—will attempt to get some reimbursement for those costs from the state and federal governments. 

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