Portland’s Preble Street social service agency wants to convert its longtime daytime drop-in center in the city’s Bayside neighborhood into a 24-hour “wellness” shelter with 40 beds.
“That’s our plan, we think it’s very much in keeping with the public health crisis we’re in but also the general consensus in this community,” says Preble Street Executive Director Mark Swann.
Swann says early in the pandemic, hundreds of people were using the center during the day. In an effort to ease overcrowding, the center closed its doors in May and dispersed food services to other parts of the city. But Swann says more than a hundred people are now sleeping outdoors in the Portland area.
“Winter’s coming soon, and the Expo shelter that the city runs, that has an end date that’s looming. And the pandemic isn’t going away,” he says. “We can get into this building because we own it, and get the renovations started quickly.”
Swann says within six weeks of approval by local planners, contractors can create a single, well-ventilated dorm that meets social-distancing requirements. But the proposal would add to the neighborhood’s concentration of homeless services, and opposition is expected from some in the neighborhood as well as from members of the City Council.