Portland City Council approves plan for homeless shelter at former Terminal 1 site

The Portland City Council voted to lease this property at Terminal 1 that will temporarily be used to house the homeless. (KATU Photo)

PORTLAND, Ore. -- The Portland City Council voted Wednesday to lease the former Terminal 1 site in the Northwest Industrial District to the housing bureau, with plans to use the space as a temporary 400-person homeless shelter.

Commissioners Nick Fish and Amanda Fritz voted no on the plan, while Steve Novick and Dan Saltzman voted yes. Mayor Charlie Hales broke the tie with a yes vote.

"Even if this is a divided vote and even if this is a divided house today, let's do the right thing, let's make sure we do it the right way," Hales said.

Fish said it felt like the city was putting the cart before the horse. The site has not been appraised nor are there any hard plans for how the city will pay for the site and who will manage the shelter.

Local business owners and organizations like the Portland Business Alliance opposed the plan to use the 14-acre site as a homeless 'mega-shelter,' saying it will put homeless people in an area far from needed services and could reduce the availability of industrial jobs.

Opponents to the plan asked city commissioners to instead focus on a "scattered site" approach to homelessness, with shelters distributed throughout the community.

"This is Portland. We are an embracing community, we are a loving community and a compassionate community and warehousing people in an industrial site is just inhumane, and it's irresponsible," said Terminal 1 shelter opponent Kimberly Eng.

It was standing room only inside City Council chambers, and about 50 people testified during the more than five-hour hearing. The majority of them appeared to be opposed to the shelter.

The site, located on Northwest Front Avenue, will open for six months. It is currently a city surplus site and up for sale. The city will sign a lease for that time with Williams and Dane Development. It is a private firm and will work with private developers to help pay for services at the shelter.

Developer Homer Williams said he'd like to open the shelter by the end of October.

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