PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The Oregon Community Foundation announced Friday it is awarding nearly $7 million to Rockwood Community Development Corporation (Rockwood CDC) to acquire and convert a 75-room motel in Gresham to shelter some of the community’s housing insecure individuals or families.

The Project Turnkey grant, made possible from funds made available by the Oregon legislature, will be used to convert a motel into housing, though officials said they aren’t revealing its exact location to the public.

The site, which is technically in outer Northeast Portland, will be turned into a COVID-respite shelter for vulnerable Gresham community members, including people experiencing or at risk of homelessness. Longer term, Rockwood CDC will renovate the site to provide transitional housing.

“The East side of Multnomah County has seen a lack of investment from the county, it’s actually from the state also,” said Gresham’s Mayor Travis Stovall. “So this is a critical investment into our community that will see tremendous impact.”

“East Multnomah County has been an under-invested part of the county for an awfully long time. And to solve the problems and the issues and take up advantage of the opportunities that we have out here in East Multnomah County, it’s going to take both collaboration and a lot of new capital that comes into the community,” said Brad Ketch, Chairman, Board of Director, Rockwood CDC. “So with this almost $7 million donation to the Rockwood CDC, it’s an incredible down payment on what we hope will be new investment that comes to this community in the future.”

Brad Ketch Chairman, Board of Director, Rockwood CDC, gives a speech during a press conference at The Runrise Center in Gresham. Friday, May 28, 2021 (KOIN).

He added that, besides shelter, the organization also provides culturally relevant programs, services and referrals to meet specific needs of underserved and multicultural communities of outer East Multnomah County “so that they can truly move forward to live good, productive and meaningful lives.”

The Project Turnkey-Gresham site, operated by Rockwood CDC, will include benefits such as provision of meals, clothing and essentials such as showers, laundry and hygiene items. The site will also include an inclusive, community based, trauma-informed and culturally relevant model that helps unhoused and at-risk community members move from crisis to stability, according to a press release from Oregon Community Foundation. 

Lynn Ketch, Board President for Wallace Medical and Executive Director of Rockwood CDC, said the grant will “provide a much-needed lifeline for underprivileged children and families and other vulnerable communities.” Wallace Medical is also partnering with Rockwood CDC to serve the community, she said. 

Nearly 1,000 children are experiencing homelessness in the Reynolds School District, the community of which is where the new shelter will be located. 

Megan Loeb, Program Officer, Housing, Oregon Community Foundation gives a speech during a press conference at The Sunrise Center in Gresham. Friday, May 28, 2021 (KOIN).

“Providing stable housing and related trauma-informed services as a base is critical for our ability as a school district to be able to support those students through their growth in learning,” Reynolds School District Superintendent Dr. Danna Diaz said. “Data shows that housing insecurity among children has been associated with mental health issues, substance abuse, and increased behavior problems — all of which hamper a child’s ability to be successful in school.”

Oregon Community Foundation Program Officer Megan Loeb said the Project Turnkey Advisory Committee chose Rockwood CDC for funding because of “their expertise and track record in providing culturally relevant programming to serve under-resourced, multicultural populations throughout outer East Multnomah County.”

People from the Rockwood community also loaded up pallets of food to distribute to people in need in East Multnomah County Friday.

The Oregon Legislature allocated $65 million for Project Turnkey for the purpose of acquiring motels and hotels for use as non-congregate shelters for people experiencing homelessness or at risk of homelessness. The Gresham site is one of more than a dozen Project Turnkey-funded sites across Oregon.