The City of Portland is pleased to unveil the recommendation for the location of a new homeless services center, based on extensive input from staff and the public. The new services center will replace the adult emergency shelter currently located on Oxford Street. The new facility will be based on a comprehensive model for providing critical transitional services. City staff is recommending a parcel of land located on the corner of Brighton Avenue and Holm Avenue adjacent to The Barron Center and The Loring House in order to create a new and modern two-story homeless services center.
“It is time for us to offer people these critical transitional services in a more humane and dignified way,” said City Councilor Belinda Ray, who represents District 1 and is the Chair of the HHS and Public Safety Committee. “It is clear we need to implement a more comprehensive way of providing services in a new facility, and I look forward to reviewing this recommendation with the Council, our community partners, and the public.”
“The staff at Oxford Street have done amazing work in less than ideal conditions, but it is simply no longer sustainable and it’s time to move on,” said City Manager Jon Jennings. “We’re not proposing to move Oxford Street to a new location, we’re proposing a location in which we can offer comprehensive services in a modern facility that we can all be proud of while we assist people transition to a better life.”
The proposed location fulfills the key attributes that were identified during the Committee process when discussing the need for a new location. The site provides access to existing wrap-around services at the Barron Center and Loring House, transportation access with METRO bus service, including the soon-to-be-launched Husky Line, as well as City-run shuttle van service. In addition, it is a safe and visible location with proximity to employment opportunities. It will enable the City to provide access to all the critical services currently offered by partner agencies at existing locations and on-site in conjunction with City staff. It is also a City-owned parcel, which offers the ability to build to suit.
The new facility will provide emergency shelter services with raised beds instead of mats, meals, and day-services on the first floor. Related healthcare, housing, and employment services would be on the second floor with an outdoor courtyard that would provide dignified outside space. The center will be operational 24/7 with on-site services, including health (mental health, substance use treatment and dental services), housing assistance, peer support, case management services, General Assistance services, as well as employment assistance through the City’s HIRE program. The new modern design will reduce long lines and crowding, and the hardship that currently goes with staffing a three-level shelter. Additionally, there are funds in place provided by developments in the area to enhance sidewalk, crosswalk, and bus shelter conditions along Brighton Avenue.
The announcement of this recommended location follows a year long process in which the City examined open concept shelter models in Boston as well as in Maine to view current best practices, and presented initial concepts to the HHS and Public Safety Committee. The City’s planning staff went through a land use suitability process, which allowed for an expanded geographical area in which to search for potential sites. City staff scouted several locations for a new services center, and seriously evaluated several opportunities that could match staff recommendations.
The HHS and Public Safety Committee will hear a presentation from City staff on this recommended location at its meeting on Tuesday, June 26 at 5:30 PM in Room 24. There will be a public hearing on this topic at the Committee’s July 10 meeting.