03-26-2017  4:17 am      •     
Columbia Shelter is a temporary, low-barrier overnight shelter for up 100 people experiencing homelessness, including women, couples, and men with priority, people 55 and older, those with disabilities and veterans. (Multnomah County)

PORTLAND -- After one of the most severe winter storms in decades, two Portland businesses have joined with the City of Portland and Multnomah County to reopen a winter shelter today.

The Columbia Shelter, formerly known as the Peace I Shelter, will begin welcoming people tonight through May.  It will operate on the second floor of the Washington Center Building on Southwest Fourth and Washington and serve up to 100 people, including men, women and some couples.   

The Menashe family first opened their Washington Center Building on SW Fourth and Washington Street last year. Greystar Real Estate Partners is under contract to purchase the property from the Menashe's and together they are collaborating to meet a significant need in the community.

"Homelessness is not a challenge government can address alone. We need the entire community," said Mayor Wheeler. "The private sector is stepping up to help, and I expect this to become a trend."

The project adds another partner to the effort by the City/County Joint Office for Homeless Services and A Home For Everyone to increase shelter beds for homeless. 

Portland real estate owner Jordan Menashe and Brad Schnell with Greystar, noted how quickly Mayor Wheeler acted to pull together a relationship with the public and private sector.

“This is something that neither the public sector nor the private sector can address alone,” said Jordan Menashe. “We’ve seen the human toll this crisis has had on this community. This collaboration is critical.”  

Last week, unprecedented winter cold and snow brought in as many as 748 homeless people into severe weather warming shelters on one night alone. Local organizations including the City of Portland, Multnomah County, the City of Gresham, numerous churches, nonprofits, volunteer groups and businesses stepped up to help people who would otherwise have been unsheltered.      

“We saw the danger and difficulty facing people without a roof overhead. But we also saw the strength and amazing generosity of this community,” said Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury. “This is another example of people asking, ‘what can I do?’ And I am so grateful to Jordan Menashe and Brad Schnell.” 

The addition of the Columbia Shelter will bring the total number of winter-only shelter beds for this year to more than 250, and will add to the over 1100 year-round shelter beds our community already provides.

The City/County Joint Office of Homeless Services remains committed to preventing as many people as possible from becoming homeless in the first place - over 9,000 people last year - and maximizing the use of our shelter capacity by increasing the number of people who receive assistance to move out of shelter and off the streets back into permanent housing - that was more than 4,600 people last year.

Transition Projects will manage the Columbia Shelter, with operations funded through the City/County Joint Office of Homeless Services. Organizers have worked closely with the Portland Business Alliance on this initiative.

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