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Multnomah County commissioner proposes Crowne Plaza as shelter

By Anna Del Savio,


PORTLAND, Ore. ( Portland Tribune ) – Multnomah County Commissioner Sharon Meieran wants the county to look into purchasing a 241-room hotel in Northeast Portland for a homeless shelter and supportive housing for Portlanders with mental health issues.

The Crowne Plaza hotel, just off Northeast Second and Weidler, is next to a Safe Rest Village that has sheltered BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) Portlanders since summer 2021, and just a few hundred feet from the Unity Center for Behavioral Health.

The hotel “is centrally located and it has the potential to be an integrated campus that could holistically meet a variety of needs and fill a number of gaps at the intersection of the region’s homelessness, behavioral health and criminal justice systems,” Meieran wrote in a draft document obtained by the Portland Tribune.

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Each of the hotel’s nine floors of rooms could serve a different population, like veterans or people leaving inpatient behavioral health services at Unity, Meieran wrote.

“Given what we spend on things that don’t move the dial at all, or are in my mind, wastes of our resources, or are sprinkled around like fairy dust and do not make an impact, the cost of this is a bargain,” Meieran said.

Discussions about purchasing or leasing the building have been extremely preliminary, Meieran stressed.

Mark Hollander, CEO of Hollander Hospitality, which owns the Crowne Plaza and other hotels in Oregon and Washington, said conversations have been “strictly exploratory.” The hotel is open and in the second phase of renovations.

“We met with officials in an early discussion to explore how the property is uniquely positioned to have a positive effect on the community outside of traditional hotel operations,” Hollander said in a statement. “While this is strictly exploratory in nature, we remain focused on our employees and guests’ best interests in maintaining long-term hotel operations.”

Meieran declined to give a cost estimate during an interview, but the document she prepared estimated a $50 million to $55 million price tag.

Meieran’s vision for the Crowne Plaza would require buy-in from a wide range of providers — and funders — to get off the ground and sustain operations.

In addition to hotel rooms, the property also includes two commercial kitchens; large indoor spaces that could be used for year-round congregate shelter, severe weather shelter or community services; and a parking lot next to the existing Safe Rest village, which could serve a similar function, Meieran wrote.

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The Crowne Plaza could be “a campus style resource offering shelter, supportive bridge housing, behavioral health services and more — at a scale that will actually make a difference,” Meieran said.

The Crowne Plaza is far larger than any county-funded shelters. With 120 rooms, the Roseway shelter at the former Rodeway Inn on Northeast Sandy Boulevard is the largest Joint Office of Homeless Services-funded motel shelter. The largest congregate shelters have fewer than 100 beds.

Meieran said she wasn’t aware of any similar efforts on the same scale in other cities, but wasn’t deterred.

“We could be leaders for once in Multnomah County and in Oregon, instead of the last ones on board to do something for behavioral health,” she said.

There were 3,057 unsheltered people in Multnomah County on Jan. 26, 2022, according to the annual point-in-time count — though the PIT is widely known to undercount the number of people experiencing homelessness.

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Oregon is short on virtually every kind of housing and shelter. The state doesn’t have enough market-rate housing, subsidized affordable housing or temporary shelter beds. There aren’t enough beds for transitional housing or supportive housing, which can support specific populations like people recently released from incarceration, people who no longer need inpatient behavioral health treatment but aren’t ready to be fully independent, or people who need ongoing support for mental or physical disabilities.

Initial discussions took place roughly a year ago, but Meieran said she didn’t get much interest from other county and city leaders.

She said she heard more positive responses the second time around, from leaders like county chair Jessica Vega Pederson, Portland mayor Ted Wheeler and U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer, resulting in a meeting with decision makers in mid-March.

Skyler Brocker-Knapp, Wheeler’s senior policy advisor, attended the meeting, Wheeler’s spokesman Cody Bowman confirmed. Bowman said Wheeler and his staff “frequently meet with County leadership to discuss shared priorities,” but did not say if Wheeler was interested in pursuing Meieran’s proposal.

Oregon Health Authority spokesperson Tim Heider confirmed that OHA Behavioral Health Director Ebony Clarke attended that meeting, but didn’t say if Clarke was interested in continuing the discussions.

Leaders with Central City Concern, which operates affordable housing and provides support services like addiction recovery and job placement help, have been involved in initial conversations with Meieran.

“We do not have enough information at such an early stage to determine if we would be interested in pursuing a partnership should a project develop,” Central City Concern communications director Juliana Lukasik said. “I can say that CCC will always consider ideas that work toward creating more housing, more behavioral health support and more addiction recovery support in our community. If any of these conversations develop into a potential project, CCC will certainly listen and offer our expertise as subject matter experts.”

Meieran said there “was no specific offer or proposal or plan conveyed” when leaders met in mid-March. “But after our meeting I strongly feel there is a willingness of key leaders to think outside the box and seize opportunities,” she said. “And for me, I can’t think of a better opportunity to seize than this.”

The Portland Tribune is a KOIN 6 media partner.

Copyright 2023 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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