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Thursday, September 2, 2010

Coming Soon: Place for Homeless to Safely Stash Their Stuff

Posted by Denis C. Theriault on Thu, Sep 2, 2010 at 4:14 PM

Portland's Housing Bureau is very close to announcing the site of a new facility downtown where homeless residents downtown can store their things during the day without fear of having them stolen or confiscated. Once its location is revealed, the storage facility is expected to open within the next two weeks.

The storage facility won't be fancy—in fact it will be decidedly un-fancy to keep costs down. But it will offer a vital service for residents who might want to interview for jobs or housing or attend medical or court appointments, but would worry instead about leaving their personal belongings unguarded and vulnerable.

According to Daniel Ledezma, a policy adviser in Commissioner Nick Fish's office, it'll work like this:

The facility will open two hours in the morning, to let clients leaving shelters check their things in, and then reopen two hours in the evening to let them retrieve their things before bedding down for the night.

Weapons and drugs, along with unwrapped food, are prohibited (and alcohol is "frowned upon," Ledezma says). But staff won't be manually inspecting the satchels they process. Everyone will be on the honor system.

In all, about 40 slots will be open each day, Ledezma said—basically refurbished shopping carts, which were cheaper than building actual lockers and also more portable.

The center is meant to be a stopgap, operating only through next June. That's about when Portland's much-ballyhooed showpiece Resource Access Center for the homeless is expected to open. There, more than twice as many storage spots will be available. Ledezma said the temporary storage center will serve as something of a shakedown cruise for the larger facility.

The whole thing will cost $36,000, with the Portland Business Alliance kicking in $6,000 and the city picking up the rest. Staffers will be drawn from the PBA's Clean and Safe program.

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