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Portland developer's next project? Fighting city's homelessness issues

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Proposed location for the 15-acre campus that could provide shelter for hundreds of people. (KPTV) Proposed location for the 15-acre campus that could provide shelter for hundreds of people. (KPTV)
Port of Portland's Terminal 1 (KPTV) Port of Portland's Terminal 1 (KPTV)
PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) -

A Portland developer is spearheading an ambitious project with the potential to be a game-changer in the city's fight against homelessness.

Homer Williams, the developer behind several revitalization projects in the Pearl District and South Waterfront, is proposing a 15-acre campus that could provide shelter for hundreds of people, and help many of them get off the street permanently.

The concept is modeled after Haven for Hope, a homeless services campus Williams toured during a business trip to San Antonio, Texas.

"I just thought, why can't we do something like this," said Williams. "Why is this coming out of Texas?"

According to the Haven for Hope website, the campus provides a safe outdoor sleeping area with on-site security, along with food, medical care, and psychiatric services.  

The campus also offers drug and alcohol counseling and job placement.  According to the organization, of the 2,900 people who have graduated the program, 92 percent have not returned to homelessness.

After Williams' visit he said he made dozens of phone calls to the business community, securing nearly $360,000 in private funding to start planning for a similar facility in Portland.  

Williams is targeting the site that was formerly the Port of Portland's Terminal 1 as the preferred location for the campus.  

The property is owned by the city's Bureau of Environmental Services.

"The question is, is Terminal 1 the right location for his vision?  There's a number of reasons I just don't think it is," said City Commissioner Nick Fish, who oversees BES.

Fish said he supports Williams' idea for the campus, but said he is duty-bound to sell Terminal 1 to the highest bidder to get top dollar for ratepayers, who footed the bill to buy the property.

"Our broker tells us there's a huge interest in that site because there's such a scarcity of prime industrial land," said Fish.

Fish suggests a city-wide search for another suitable property for the campus.

Williams, meanwhile, remains undeterred, and plans to have a design, budget, and development plan on the mayor's desk by the first of the year.

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