Plans for a Homeless Shelter at Wapato Jail Spring Back to Life—This Time With Private Backing

Jordan Schnitzer is or will soon be the 100-percent owner of Wapato; he'll offer it to developer Homer Williams.

Property magnate Jordan Schnitzer, who is or soon will be a 100-percent owner of Wapato Jail, will offer the never-used jail to developer Homer Williams to open as a shelter.

Real-estate developer Marty Kehoe bought the property last week for $5 million last week and has sold the property to Schnitzer, whose company invests in storage. WW first reported that handoff Monday night.

Related: Wapato Jail's New Owner Says He's Sold a Stake in the Property (Already) to Real Estate Magnate Jordan Schnitzer

Schnitzer in turn will offer to lease the jail to Williams, who has been seeking to open shelters across the city. The Portland Tribune first reported their plans.

"Like many citizens, we watched this Wapato odyssey for years," says Schnitzer. "I think it would be wonderful if we could figure out a way for this to serve the homeless."

Kehoe, the developer who bought the property from the county, claimed in an interview with WW yesterday that he still had a stake in the property.

That appears not to be true.

Schnitzer says he paid the same amount for the property that Kehoe paid the county, but there appears to be an ongoing financial relationship between the two men.

"Marty will continue to have a role advising us on repositioning the building," says Schnitzer, declining to provide any details of that financial relationship. "What will warm my heart is if we drive out there months from now and there are people getting services."

Schnitzer's offer was heralded by the leading proponent of making the jail a shelter, County Commissioner Loretta Smith. She was repeatedly on the losing end of debates on the county commission whether to use the property for homeless services.

"I commend the group of community leaders stepping up do to what Multnomah County has repeatedly refused to consider—turning the Wapato facility into a large scale shelter with on-site services for people experiencing homelessness," says Smith. "As we continue to close existing shelters in the middle of a housing and homelessness crisis, we need leaders willing to work with those in the community to push forward better solutions. It is my hope this is the beginning of a fresh start for better serving the homeless residents of Multnomah County."

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