In a Reversal, Portland Developer Homer Williams Ready to Welcome Homeless Shelter Close to the Pearl District

The Pearl District developer says he's looked at the housing crisis and had a change of heart.

Homer Williams, best known as the developer of the Pearl District, is making an announcement today that will represent something of a mea culpa.

In media advisory Monday, Williams announced that he is holding a press conference today, joined by Columbia Sportswear CEO Tim Boyle, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, and Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury.

When contacted by WW after the advisory went out, Williams would only say he intends to open a homeless shelter near the very spot where he once opposed an organized homeless camp.

But he admitted that represents a change of heart.

In 2013, Williams did everything he could to block a move of Right 2 Dream Too, the self-organized homeless camp that was supposed to be located near hotel he was developing in the Pearl.

Now he's doing everything he can to bring a shelter to a nearby location.

"I realize now that as a community we need to embrace shelters and make sure they're well run," Williams tells WW. "But they're still our citizens, our people."

What changed?

As he's dug into the issue of homelessness, Williams says he's realized it's not just a problem affecting a certain class of chronically homeless people.

"It's going to be many other people who are not going to be able to afford the housing they're in," he says.

The other realization, he says: "We can't build our way out of this at this point. There's not enough money or time, so every neighborhood should embrace the concept of shelters."

Williams has been pursuing various paths to aid in the effort, including a failed effort to open a mass shelter at Terminal 1, a complicated land swap that would begin with changing a golf course to industrial land, and, most recently, a bid for Wapato, the county's never-used jail.

The details of today's announcement remain under wraps.

As he's pursued various options for opening shelters, a question has hung over the proposals: What's in it for Williams, a real estate developer known for turning a brownfield into luxury condos?

Today's announcement may begin to allay skepticism of Williams' motivations. Or perhaps not.

Look for an update after the 9 am press conference.