Helping Hands founder says newly-expanded Bybee Lakes Hope Center needs funding to continue

Published: Mar. 2, 2022 at 8:11 PM PST
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PORTLAND, Ore. (KPTV) - FOX 12 took a tour of the newly expanded Bybee Lakes Hope Center in the formerly unused Wapato Jail.

It offers shelter and services for people experiencing homelessness.

The executive director said it’s been a successful first year and a half, but there’s a key piece still missing, money from the city and county.

“Here’s kind of the layout so when people come in, they know exactly where they’re going,” Alan Evans said as we began our walk-through.

The center seems to have everything from a kitchen and dining room, boxes upon boxes of donated food, to a visiting area and playground.

“We have a full medical wing and a dental wing in here,” Evans said.

It’s a safe place for people experiencing homelessness to come stay and get services specific to their needs, all by referral only.

The expansion means triple the bed space.

The site is one of nearly a dozen Helping Hands Re-entry Outreach Centers in Oregon.

Evans is the founder and executive director.

“We believe we’ve created a data-driven opportunity for re-entry that is bulletproof,” he said.

People who come in get emergency shelter for four days and see if this is a fit. They can’t drink, use drugs or be violent.

The Bybee Lakes Hope Center uses data to help them meet goals, based on the information they provide when they come, and it’s all tracked, from treatment to training, and nearby businesses including Columbia help with job placement, until eventually people have the tools to go back into the community.

Evans said there is some difficulty though. So far, funding has come from the state, a grant and donors, not the city or county.

“We cannot sustain off of private donations, we just can’t and it’s not fair to us,” Evans said.

A Multnomah County spokesperson tells us Helping Hands has always had access to the same process for pitching programs for county funding as other service providers, and they recently qualified to negotiate contracts with the Joint Office of Homeless Services.

But Evans said since their low barrier entry - high barrier opportunity approach is different from other homelessness efforts, they haven’t found a way to apply to funding that fits their model.

He said their other locations have only worked because of a strong public-private partnership, and this site needs that too.

“I want to fight for every person who walks through this door to make sure they have an adequate chance to make it and it cannot be done unless we can all come to the table and sit down and say this is an important element in this community,” he said.

FOX 12 has been asking Mayor Ted Wheeler’s office for a week now about his support for the site but we haven’t heard back.