Homeless shelter idea possibly revived at Wapato Jail site - KPTV - FOX 12

Homeless shelter idea possibly revived at Wapato Jail site

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Wapato Jail (KPTV file photo) Wapato Jail (KPTV file photo)

The possibility of turning the Multnomah County Wapato Jail site in north Portland took a new turn Tuesday.

The jail, which sold for five million dollars last week, is under new ownership. 

The 155,400-square-foot building was originally sold to Kehoe Northwest Properties. The Multnomah County Board of Commissioners voted 4-1 to sell the jail to Kehoe Northwest April 19, with Commissioner Loretta Smith being the lone dissenting vote.

Smith had been pushing for the jail to be turned into a homeless shelter. 

Jordan Schnitzer, the President of Harsch Investment Properties, confirmed Tuesday afternoon that his company had acquired the title for the property. Schnitzer said his company had worked out a deal and bought the property from Kehoe Northwest, which was finalized on Friday. 

Schnitzer said that after his company acquired the jail, he called Homer Williams, chairman of Oregon Harbor for Hope, a nonprofit organization that serves Portland's homeless population, and told him about the acquisition and the potential for a new homeless shelter.

"He said, 'you made my day,'" Schnitzer said, speaking of Williams. 

Williams confirmed to FOX 12 Tuesday that the idea of leasing the property was out there. Williams had previously rallied to buy the property for the purpose of a homeless shelter.

"It's a good day on the farm," Williams said. 

Smith held a press conference regarding the change of hands at the Multnomah Building in Portland Tuesday afternoon. 

"Last week, there were a lot of foolishness and shenanigans," Smith said at the conference. "But today is the right day to announce this, this is a common-sense approach to our homelessness."

Wapato Jail was built in 2004 after voters approved a $46 million bond measure eight years earlier for its construction. Funding issues prevented the facility from ever operating as a jail. The building is on 18.24 acres of industrial land in the Rivergate Industrial Park.

County workers said $109 million has been spent on Wapato Jail, in total, with a cost of $300,000 a year to maintain it.

Oregon Harbor for Hope would potentially run any shelter at the Wapato Jail site. 

The organization's director, Don Mazziotti, says they won’t know much about the idea to lease the space until possibly next week. 

He says that even though his organization has expressed interest in the property, there's still a lot of work that needs to be done.

He says his organization hopes to create a program modeled after a successful homeless transition project in San Antonio called Haven for Hope. 

Schnitzer says a group is set to meet next week to discuss the Wapato property.

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