New shelter hopes to help in Portland's homeless crisis

A new shelter on Northeast Martin Luther King Boulevard in Portland looks to provide 80 beds for veterans and the elderly experiencing homelessness. KATU photo

A new shelter looks to provide 80 beds for veterans and the elderly experiencing homelessness in Northeast Portland.

"You're able to get some stabilization in your life so you can get your appointments during the day and not have to worry about a place to sleep at night," said Paul Susi, the manger of the Walnut Park shelter, which is run by Transition Projects.

The shelter is in a county-owned building on Northeast Martin Luther King Boulevard. As of a few weeks ago it wasn't being used for anything other than storage.

Susi says he's worked with neighborhood not-for-profits to identify people 55 and older and or veterans who are experiencing homelessness in the area. They've then reached out to them to work and get them in the shelter.

A Zillow study from 2017 found that for every one percent increase in the median rent price, an additional five to seven people in Portland were left out on the streets.

Rent in Portland has stabilized, as the rate of people moving in to the area has slowed and more recently-built apartments are becoming available. That along with increased funding for homeless services and affordable housing has Susi optimistic that progress is being made.

"Portland doesn't have to be the poster child of homelessness on the West Coast," Susi said. "We can be the poster child of coming together and coming up with innovative solution to make our communities healthier."

Multnomah County says 80 people homeless people died out in the elements in 2016.

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