PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) – What was built as the Wapato Jail in north Portland officially has a new name.

The Bybee Lakes Hope Center, a transitional housing facility, will open in September. The center, which will serve hundreds of people, hosted a rededication ceremony on Wednesday.

Helping Hands Reentry Outreach Centers has been working over the last eight months to get the massive building ready. The building has been sitting vacant since its construction in 2003.

On Wednesday, the Seaside-based nonprofit symbolically cut the never-used jail’s razor wire along the fence outside of the 155,000-square-foot building.

Wapato Jail to open as Bybee Lakes Hope Center next month

KPTV file image.

The Wapato Jail at one point was slated to be torn down, but its owner previously delayed plans in hopes that Helping Hands could raise the necessary funds to utilize it as a shelter.

“I couldn’t understand why a building like this was sitting here empty and there was such a great need in this community,” Alan Evans, founder and CEO of Helping Hands, said.

Evans was homeless himself for 27 years. He says the Bybee Lakes Hope Center will help hundreds of homeless people in the community, starting with 240 available beds by December and a host of programs to help people get back on their feet.

“A place to learn to change your life, a place to get educated, vocational training, culinary arts training,” Evans said.

Evans credits Helping Hands donors and Developer Jordan Schnitzer, who helped the organization raise $4 million to begin operations and gave them a five-year lease for $1 a year.

“When this gets open and a lot of people who weren’t sure whether it would ever work see that it’s operating, I think there’s a lot of people who would come forward and help make contributions and also some of the politicians then might say there are some public funds available to keep the program going,” Schnitzer said.

On top of the community’s current needs, Evans said the COVID-19 pandemic will only expand the necessity of the Bybee Lakes Hope Center.

“We know the face of homelessness is going to change again in the next year, without a doubt,” Evans said.

By next year, Helpings Hands says they’ll have 500 beds available for reentry programs.

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