Neighbors worried low-barrier shelter will bring drugs

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PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A new Southeast Portland homeless shelter that will prioritize people with disabilities has neighbors concerned about drug use and crime. 

The shelter is at SE Foster and Holgate and will have space for 40 single women and 40 couples.

“Priority for people living with disabilities,” shelter services manager April Rohman said. 

Rohman said people who are addicted to drugs and alcohol do fall under the definition of living with a disability.

“We haven’t included any place for them to do drugs, so that means they are going to be doing drugs in my neighborhood,” neighbor Jenna Roberts said. 

Aly Gilbert said she’s 9 years sober and she’s worried about the crime she feels will come with the new shelter.

“You get your drugs through property crime, straight up,” Gilbert said. “I have major concern about the location and the brewery.”

Denis Theriault with the Multnomah County Joint Office of Homeless Services said some people discussed wanting this to be a high barrier shelter, but he wanted to reassure people who live in the area that they won’t be sending people outside to do drugs.

“We want a shelter where more people can come in and get connected to services, and that’s what a low barrier shelter means,” Theriault said. “It doesn’t mean no accountability.”

The shelter will be operated like the Willamette Center, with landscaping to minimize noise and odors. It will have a sheltered entrance behind the building to avoid a line outside and a courtyard with artificial turf for dogs.

Despite all the assurances, residents are still concerned.

“It’s their friends that come to visit them that are more of a concern to the neighbors,” David Potts said.  

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