IMAGE: martin thiel
"Get away from me! Get away!" yelled a white-haired woman struggling to light a cigarette outside the building. Other residents turned away and refused to answer questions. "It's been a little disruptive for residents," says Mark Schorr, media contact for Cascadia Behavioral Healthcare, which operates the facility.
The response underlines the fragility of the Taft's residents, whose ailments range from schizophrenia to aphasia and severe developmental disabilities. When Cascadia shuts the hotel in April, these men and women, whose world can be shaken simply by the presence of a stranger asking questions, will be turned onto the streets, many of them literally.
Central City Concern, a Portland drug-and-alcohol rehabilitation agency, is looking for a way to rescue the Taft, which cost Cascadia $400,000 last year. "There's a strong need to keep it as housing for that vulnerable population," says Executive Director Richard Harris.
Harris has attended meetings with Cascadia, REACH (which owns the building), representatives from the state, and Northwest Pilot Project, another social-service agency that works on housing issues. Schorr acknowledges that other agencies have expressed interest in taking over services at the Taft. But, he adds, "so far no one has stepped up to the plate."