PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The never-used Wapato Jail could soon house patients who have coronavirus.
The facility’s owner, Jordan Schnitzer, confirmed Thursday he’s in talks with the Oregon Health Authority. The goal is to renovate the facility and provide bed space to safely isolate and treat people with COVID-19.
Schnitzer purchased the property in 2018 and has been working to turn it into a homeless facility. He said he hopes to have the North Portland facility ready by the end of the month.
Earlier this week, former Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber proposed using the former Wapato Jail to treat COVID-19 victims.
Kitzhaber, a former emergency room physician, made the proposal on his blog on Sunday, March 15. In a lengthy piece on how Oregon should respond to the coronavirus pandemic, Kitzhaber noted that private fundraising is currently underway to open three of the facility’s nine wings for the homeless.
“What would it take to use these wings to expand capacity for managing those with coronavirus who need inpatient care, but not ICU care? There is no reason why this capacity could not still be used for the original purpose once the pandemic is over and, indeed, some of the investments in the facility that would be needed in the short term might be an asset to the long-term goal around homelessness,” Kitzhaber wrote.