Pastor says new proposal addresses concerns of turning Wapato Ja - KPTV - FOX 12

Pastor says new proposal addresses concerns of turning Wapato Jail into homeless shelter

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Pastor Michelle McLaughlin (KPTV) Pastor Michelle McLaughlin (KPTV)
PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) -

A local pastor who wants to turn the Wapato Jail into a homeless shelter made her pitch to Multnomah County Commissioners on Thursday, and while the plan has its critics, she says this new proposal addresses all of the concerns that have been raised.

Those critics say a building designed to be a jail should not serve as a home for anyone, but pastor Michelle McLaughlin says her plan to lease the property makes perfect sense.

McLaughlin said the 550 bed facility could be easily converted to serve as a safe, full-service transitional home for those with no place to go.

The Wapato Jail was built in 2003, but has never been used because of budget problems. Even though it sits empty, it costs the government $500,000 a year to maintain.

On Thursday, McLaughlin outlined the plan, pointing out that the facility would be funded completely with private money. She also addressed some of the concerns raised about the north Portland location.

"We plan to have services right there on the campus. And the campus is so large, that we can have different social services, mental health services, addicting recovery services, and have those all right there so people don't have to go back and forth."

McLaughlin plans to raise 2.1 million in private money to make the plan work, and she's not wasting time. Her plan calls for the facility to open within 45-days, before the cold weather sets in.

Although McLaughlin works as a pastor, she says she is working on this project as a private citizen.

While there is opposition to the proposal from some homeless advocates, the County Commissioners say they welcome all proposals for the property, and say they will thoroughly evaluate this latest plan.

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