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SE Portland homeless shelter set to open, petition circulating demands that mayor act

A roomful of beds inside the Wy’east Men's Homeless Shelter located at 1415 S.E. 122nd Ave. (KATU Photo)

Sixty-one men will move out of a temporary shelter at Multnomah County’s Hansen Building and into the Wy’east Men's Homeless Shelter Wednesday.

It’s a shelter that prioritizes housing men over 55 years old, those with disabilities and veterans.

It will also allow some things that other shelters don’t.

“People didn't want to come inside because they had a pet,” said Denis Theriault of the Multnomah County Office of Homeless Services. “We allow pets. We'll take care of them."

During an open house at the shelter, located at 1415 S.E. 122nd Ave., officials let neighbors, homeless advocates and others tour the new shelter, which expects to only stay open for about a year when other more permanent shelters come online.

There're laundry facilities, an outdoor shower trailer and an expectation people staying there want to do what it takes to get off the streets.

“We don't want to conflate folks who are in shelter with the crime that's happening. I mean folks who are coming in shelter, they want to be inside,” said Theriault, “They're getting services.”

A homeless man's alleged knife attack on Kasey Lebechuck two-and-a-half weeks ago happened just two miles from the Wy’east shelter.

That prompted several people to start petitions, including one on Change.org, demanding Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler do more to prevent crime tied to homeless campers.

Those demands include hiring more police to bolster the Portland Police Bureau's Neighborhood Response Team, enforcing and prosecuting "livability" crimes, removing encampments from residential neighborhoods and enforcing loiter-free safe zones around local businesses.

“We're talking about criminals and predators,” said Maura White, who co-authored the petition. She is on the board of the Hollywood Boosters organization and has advocated for the homeless. “We're not talking about the people who are down on their luck and things are happening. We're there for them. So this is about people who are, you know, leaving needles everywhere. Robbing us. Who are out there in this community really causing damage.”

Back at the Wy’east shelter open house, that worries neighbor P.J. Blake too.

“I sat in on a group that helps to end the homeless problem, except that so many people have come from outside of Portland -- so we really have our work cut out for us. You know, it's gonna be very tough, so I'm very concerned about it,” said Blake.

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