The Oregon Convention Center and two Portland Parks & Recreation community centers have served as emergency shelters as COVID-19 required officials to rethink the amount of space required to safely shelter homeless people.

Now the Joint Office of Homeless Services will prepare for the next phase of the pandemic by moving shelter beds from group settings to hotels or other housing that allows separate bedrooms, particularly for people who are older or have medical conditions and are therefore more at risk of complications from COVID-19.

"Reopening means folks are going to be out and about," says Joint Office spokesman Denis Theriault. The risks, he adds, "may even grow for folks who are vulnerable."

There are no details yet on when exactly the Joint Office will close the Convention Center shelter and the Charles Jordan and East Portland community centers—or which motels or housing will replace those spaces.

But people won't be packed into existing shelters. Homeless shelters throughout the city intend to maintain lower numbers to allow for social distancing.

The tent villages set up in Old Town and the central eastside will remain in operation, as will the shelters that existed before COVID-19.

"No one currently staying in the affected physical distancing shelters will lose a bed," says Theriault. "So long as funding remains available, our goal continues to be maintaining overall shelter bed capacity.

"If and when we shift beds from any of our current emergency sites, we plan to do so only when replacement sites are ready to accommodate that capacity, and we will provide transportation for those guests."