As this city grapples with a shortage of beds for homeless families and a cold snap, a small new shelter opened last night at Beth Israel, a synagogue in Northwest Portland. It can hold about 25 families a night.
Earlier this month, Portland's homeless shelter for families had 74 families on its waiting list for shelter, 14 of them living on the streets.
Last month, Multnomah County's family shelter started turning people away as the number of people seeking shelter approached 500 a night.
"Congregation Beth Israel has decided that we cannot stand 'idly by' as these children suffer in cold and dangerous circumstances; sleeping in cars with their families, or being turned away from shelters already too full," reads the synagogue website. "This shelter, which we are calling 'Mitzvah House,' will house approximately 25 families during evening hours only."
The synagogue is providing the space, Portland Homeless Family Solutions will operate it, and the joint office is covering the operating costs.
At the same time, the city-county Joint Office of Homeless Services is looking to open a 100-person year-round shelter in a former Asian food market on Soitheast Foster Rd. in the Mt. Scott-Arleta neighborhood.
During last winter's snow storms, community members in Mt. Scott volunteered to staff a temporary homeless shelter at the Mt. Scott Community Center — one indication that the homeless shelter may receive a warmer reception than in some parts of town.
A community meeting will be held next Monday evening with County Chair Deborah Kafoury and Mayor Ted Wheeler in attendance, according to a letter from the joint office.
The new year-round shelter may not result in an increased number of shelter beds, because ultimately the joint office is seeking to shut down the Hanson Place shelter.
The long-term lease on the Foster Road property will go before the county commission as soon as next month.
Over the past three nights, the joint office has opened shelters from cold weather.