$3M from federal spending bill headed to Beaverton's future year-round shelter

$3M from federal spending bill headed to Beaverton's future year-round shelter

By:  Lauren Bishop

U.S. Sens. Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden supported Beaverton's housing goals by setting aside $3 million for the Beaverton Homeless Shelter as part of the $1.7 trillion spending bill passed by Congress in late December.

The future year-round shelter is set to become the first of its kind available to homeless people across Washington County, another piece in the puzzle of helping get people off the streets and into more stable housing.

The Beaverton City Council has been talking for years about how to set up accessible temporary housing services in the city, and slow accruing the necessary funding through federal spending bills and taxes dedicated to homeless services. 

The $3 million courtesy of Wyden and Merkley will go toward purchase of the building, permits and future renovation costs.

Additional funding has been set aside through the federal American Rescue Plan Act pandemic relief funds, as well as other public money to address homelessness in the region.

"This critical funding will enable us to do the good work of caring for our most vulnerable community members," said Mayor Lacey Beaty in a statement, adding: "I'm so stoked to have another major piece of the funding puzzle in place - thanks to Senators Wyden and Merkley and Congresswoman (Suzanne) Bonamici."

As of this year, Bonamici - who has been in Congress since 2012 — will be one of two U.S. representatives serving the Beaverton area. She and Rep.-elect Andrea Salinas, a fellow Democrat, are awaiting swearing-in, as the U.S. House of Representatives remains deadlocked as of Wednesday afternoon, Jan. 4, without having chosen a speaker. By House convention, a speaker must be selected before House members are sworn in.

Site selected

With funding falling into place for its year-round shelter, the Beaverton City Council in April purchased a 12,000-square-foot commercial building in April, off Southwest Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway near Highway 217, one of the first major steps in moving the project forward.

The shelter at 11380-11390 S.W. Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway will be open every day, 24/7, and it will provide beds, meals, showers and a clinic space for about 60 guests. It will be operated by Washington County in partnership with a contracted service provider and is anticipated to open in early 2024.

Plans for the shelter are entering the design phase, according to the most recent city newsletter. Ink:Built Architecture, based in Portland, is working with Washington County and local organizations Central City Concern, Open Door Counseling Center and the Native American Rehabilitation Association to determine the architectural needs of the future shelter, according to Beaverton's most recent newsletter.

The transitional housing facility is anticipated to be "low-barrier," meaning there will be minimal requirements for entry. High-barrier shelters typically require guests to follow rules restricting substance use, work or religious program participation, and more.

Regional efforts

The millions heading to Beaverton from the federal government are on top of the more local tax measures that have been used to fund homeless and housing projects around the Portland metro.

With support from Oregon state legislators, in 2021, Beaverton secured $2.3 million through the American Rescue Act for a permanent shelter.

In May 2020, voters in the Metro area approved a tax estimated to raise $2.5 billion for homeless services over the next decade. That came less than two years after Metro voters approved a $652.8 million bond to build more affordable housing across the region.

While the full-time shelter is in the works, Beaverton has been offering a winter shelter through Washington County and nonprofit Just Compassion, at the Beaverton Community Center at 12350 S.W. Fifth St.

The winter shelter first opened in January 2017, providing space for 30 adults.

This year, the winter will be available in case of inclement weather through May 31. It was already open for limited days, from Dec. 16 to Dec. 18 and Dec. 21 to Dec. 24, due to cold and wet weather.

In conjunction with a permanent homeless shelter shelter, Beaverton is working on what city officials call the House Beaverton Project, aimed at identifying housing needs and determining what City Hall can do to meet those needs.

That works includes a housing analysis for current and future needs, as well as a specific strategy via policies, programs and incentives to help Beaverton reach its housing goals.

Final reports on the needs analysis and production strategy are scheduled to be published this summer, according to the city website.