Neighbors of planned SE Foster homeless shelter want government accountability

By a show of hands, a large number of people at a meeting Thursday night indicate their concern for a planned homeless shelter in Southeast Portland. (KATU Photo)

Neighbors living next to a planned homeless shelter in Southeast Portland came together Thursday to discuss the change coming to their neighborhood.

The 24-hour homeless shelter will be housed at a vacant building on Southeast Foster near 61st Avenue.

The Foster-Powell Neighborhood Association hosted the meeting. A large majority of people there said they were concerned about the shelter.

"It's a great idea, and it's needed in our city. I just think it's the wrong location," said Cory Rea, who lives less than a mile away from the shelter property.

Rea said he moved into the neighborhood four years ago. He said he's concerned about raising his family near a shelter.

"(The neighborhood is) up and coming. It's changing since I've been there. There's new restaurants, new bars," he said.

A homeless shelter, he said, would stop the progress.

Some neighbors at the meeting are supportive of the idea.

"They already live all around our library and in our neighborhood parks. There are safety concerns that we have for our children, our families and our property, but I think making a shelter available for those people, it's a step in the right direction," said Erin Cooley, who lives five blocks away from the building.

Neighbors said they are concerned about increased crime, drug activity and drinking. They are also worried about the buildup of trash and the appearance of the area.

A large majority of the people said they want the city and county to be held accountable for the 100-bed facility.

People said positive changes could come to the area if there are fewer tents and homeless on the streets.

"These are people. They're not gonna go away. They need to be in permanent housing, not shelter," said David Potts, who lives in the neighboring Lents Neighborhood about four miles away from the building.

According to the Joint Office for Homeless Services, terms of the lease agreement for the property are being negotiated. A spokesperson for the office said there is no date for another public meeting on the planned shelter that neighbors requested.

Foster-Powell Neighborhood Association Chair Brian Balla told KATU news the organization plans to form a coalition with bordering neighborhood associations to come together in order to have control over the plan. He said he hopes to meet with city and county leaders in the next couple of weeks.

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