History of the end of the Athens Hotel

Eds. Note – The series of articles below list the steps the City of Portland made to secure the Athens Hotel from slumlords. They eventually turned it over to Central City Concern which remodeled it, renamed it “The Sally McCracken” and designated it the nation’s first intentional alcohol and drug free community.

Oregonian, December 4, 1987

The city will spend $168,000 over the next six months to house homeless people in the Athens Hotel for the winter, the board of the Portland Development Commission decided Thursday.

The five commissioners voted unanimously to lease the vacant, 100-room residential hotel as a way to open up space in the city’s emergency shelters, which already are nearly full.

Up to 200 people could live for free in the Athens, located at Northwest Sixth Avenue and Everett Street, said Samuel Galbreath, the development commission’s director of housing.

“The city sees this as a one-time response to a potentially critical situation . . . not a solution to homelessness,” Galbreath said. “This was felt to be a much better solution than just opening another warehouse for folks.”

The city will spend $30,000 to fix up the Athens and bring it up to code, with work beginning in about a week, Galbreath said. It will cost the city $23,000 a month to house the people and operate the hotel, which will have two managers on duty 24 hours a day. A social worker also will be on the staff.

The lease agreement with the hotel’s owner, Kalberer Hotel Supply Co., calls for the city to assume the owner’s tax and insurance expenses rather than pay monthly rent. The city will sublet the Athens to Central City Concern, which will manage the hotel.

Athens Hotel, circa 1988

Athens Hotel, circa 1988

A few unresolved insurance-policy details still stand in the way of the deal being finalized, Galbreath said. But he said he was optimistic that the plan would proceed as expected.

People who are making the emergency shelters their permanent homes are likely to be selected as residents of the Athens, Galbreath said. They will be chosen after being screened by shelter operators and should be living in the hotel by Christmas, he said.

Case workers will try to link residents with benefits, such as welfare or Social Security and medical and counseling programs, which would enable them to move out of the Athens and into more permanent housing, he said.

Ultimately, the city would like to have a network of low-income residential hotels for people who are able to live “semi-independently” but who are now living in emergency shelters, Galbreath said.

The shelters are intended for transients or people who need temporary help.

“Hopefully, a program will be in place by next year so we won’t need to do this again,” he said.

The opening of the Athens is just part of the city’s winter program for sheltering its homeless citizens, according to Galbreath. The city also will spend about $17,000 to install an outdoor recreation yard and covered waiting area adjacent to the Burnside Projects shelter at 435 N.W. Glisan St.

Galbreath said the yard was intended to get people off the street, where they now line up to await admission to the shelter.

Oregonian, January 7, 1988

Adam Ruark sat in his room Wednesday at the Athens Hotel in Northwest Portland thinking about how he got a chance to make a new start.

When the 24-year-old Los Angeles native came to Portland six months ago, he was living on the streets.

At night, Ruark sought shelter at Baloney Joe’s on East Burnside. Whenever he could scrape up enough money for a meal, he would eat.

But two weeks ago, Ruark received a boost. With the help of the Winter Housing Initiative Program, he was able to move into the refurbished Athens Hotel and get help finding a job.

“It was just me and my backpack. That’s all there was,” Ruark said. “I would just set up outside Baloney Joe’s. But when somebody told me about the Athens having this new program, I went to check it out.”

What Ruark found was that the hotel had been converted into temporary housing for homeless people. A news conference was held Wednesday morning in the lobby of the hotel, at 230 N.W. Sixth Ave., to announce the formal opening of the program. It has been in operation since Dec. 16.

Officials and sponsors from the city of Portland, the Portland Development Commission, Central City Concern, the YWCA, the Burnside Community Council and Burnside Projects Inc. were at the conference.

“It means a lot to me to be able to stay here,” said Ruark, who is one of 79 residents living in the hotel, where occupants stay rent-free. “You’re on your own, and you get your own room. They’re giving me a chance to get back on my feet. I’ve applied for an industrial training program, and that should get me a pretty good job. I’m really thankful.”

According to Sharon Nielson of Central City Concern, the hotel will hold approximately 90 residents. Jean DeMaster of Burnside Projects said she didn’t know how many people would use the hotel. But if the need arises, residents who live in single rooms would be asked to “double up.”

A staff of counselors will work with residents to help them find jobs.

“Once the residents are able to find jobs and get back into things, we hope to rotate people through,”DeMaster said. “This will give them somewhere to go 24 hours a day. It’s a tremendous addition to the shelters that we already have.”

Nielson said the program was being funded by a $161,000 grant from the Portland Development Commission. The program will run through May 1.

“What the program is an entree to a more stable life for some of these people,”Nielson said. “Its effects are far-reaching into the future. We’re trying to help these people get back into the community without having to live on the streets.”

WHIP is a cooperative project of the city of Portland, private businesses and community agencies, she said.

Mary Thrasher, 36, came to Portland seven months ago to make a new start. Originally from Houston, Thrasher said she had nowhere to stay until the hotel opened.

“I stayed in some shelters here, but they didn’t mean the same thing as this one,” Thrasher said. “This means I have a place to stay and to keep my stuff. I found a job the other day, and now I should be able to get a fresh start.”

Social-service officials said that no one has been turned away from area shelters, despite the recent cold-weather snap. Woody Piquette, manager of Baloney Joe’s, explained that the weather hadn’t driven everyone inside.

“It’s cramped up here, and it gets that way a lot,” Piquette said. “But there’s still a segment of the homeless population out there that says it hasn’t been cold enough to come inside. If it does get cold, we have to use a different system.”

Burnside Project’s DeMaster said the agencies in Portland were able to accommodate up to 630 people each night. If needed, the agencies have set up an emergency network of homeless referrals in case the number of people seeking shelter rises, she said.

Oregonian, March 21, 1988

It wasn’t noon yet, but Chuck’s breath already was heavy with the smell of liquor and his eyes were watery and red. He knew what he was saying, though. Chuck and his buddies are free men, he said; they’ll always be free.

But in the next week or so, city crews will tear down Chuck’s plastic tarp house, the one he shares with two other guys in Sullivan’s Gulch, along the Union Pacific Railroad tracks that run beside the Banfield Freeway. His is one of a half-dozen encampments along the Banfield that the city plans to destroy in its latest campaign to deal with the city’s homeless.

Officials say they are making progress on the problem:

*Despite predictions last fall that the city’s emergency shelters would not be able to meet the winter’s demand, nobody had to be turned away, thanks to the opening of the Athens Hotel in December. Even with the 90 people who were placed in the Athens, however, the city’s two main emergency shelters — Burnside Projects, with a capacity of 130, and Baloney Joe’s, with a capacity of 150 — were full all winter.

*For the second year in a row, there were no deaths from hypothermia in the city.

*More shelter space was opened so people could get off the streets during the day, when the emergency shelters traditionally have been closed.

*The network of public and private agencies that serves the area’s homeless successfully competed for about $5 million in federal grant funds for new housing and treatment programs during the next year. Officials predict the programs will help break the cycle of homelessness.

“We’re meeting our objectives,” said J. Daniel Steffey, the aide to Mayor Bud Clark on homeless issues.

But then there are guys like Chuck.

At 59, the Montana native said he had lived on the streets for five years after a lifetime of construction work, “cowboying and just about anything else a man can do.”

The past three years have been spent living along the Banfield, under the Grand Avenue bridge, where Chuck, who would give only his first name, said he stayed out of trouble and minded his own business.

Chuck doesn’t care how many shelters the city opens. He won’t go to them.

“I tried those shelters once,” Chuck said. “I wasn’t raised that way. I was raised to be free.”

When city maintenance crews come in to tear down Chuck’s home, it won’t be the first time, he said. And he and his buddies will do just as they did the last time, about a year or so ago. They’ll gather up their favorite belongings, climb the hill to the road above and watch as the crews dismantle their makeshift shack, gather up the litter and throw it all in a city dump truck.

“It’s good maid service,” Chuck said of the cleanup operation. “We’ll just start over. You can tell ’em that.”

– – People such as Chuck represent a dilemma and an embarrassment for city officials and social service agency workers who say they’re making headway at dealing with the city’s homeless problem.

“We do provide shelter for this population. There’s a lot of opportunities for other lifestyles. Most of these people have refused to come to the shelters,” said Tim Gallagher, director of the city’s Bureau of Community Development, referring to people who live in the “camps.”

If they choose to live outdoors, Gallagher added, “They’re not going to do it on public property, where there’s so much at risk.”

The encampments pose litter and sanitary problems and, in some cases, are breeding grounds for crime, said Capt. Wayne Inman, commander of the Portland Police Bureau’s East Precinct. Inman has waged a “full-scale tactical operation” against encampments in his precinct, which he said formerly flourished along the Willamette riverfront and under the Interstate 5 and Interstate 84 interchange bridges.

Before “sweeps” in December and January, there were at least 30 people living under the Burnside Bridge, directly below Baloney Joe’s, Inman said. It’s taken constant surveillance to keep it and other encampments from forming again, he added.

As the weather gets warmer, the encampment problem is expected to get worse — just as officials are pointing proudly to the list of accomplishments made this past winter and just as the mayoral primary campaign is heating up. Some of the other candidates have attacked Clark’s 12-point plan for the homeless, saying that more services just mean more homeless people in Portland.

But the city has made progress, Steffey and others contend.

The opening of the Athens Hotel allowed 90 people to move out of the drop-in shelters and into a more stable place where they received counseling and help getting public assistance or jobs and permanent places to live. A temporary program that will end April 30, the Athens Hotel project is the forerunner of what officials say will be an expanded program involving other single-room-occupancy hotels to be developed under a long-term plan to increase low-income housing in the downtown area.

The $2.6 million plan, known as the Downtown Low-Income Housing Preservation Program, was approved recently by the Portland Development Commission

Steffey hopes several of the hotel projects will be on line by next winter, providing work in the meantime to homeless people in the area.

Along other lines of progress, Multnomah County has provided nearly $200,000 to pay for case managers who, working through a variety of agencies, are helping homeless people acquire public assistance if they qualify for it, jobs if they can work and places to live outside the emergency shelters. A year ago, there were no case managers working with the homeless in the community. Now there are 14.

The West Women’s Hotel is scheduled to move into expanded quarters, increasing its capacity from 35 to 85; the Mount Vernon Apartments were opened to provide transitional housing for women in crisis; and Providence Medical Center is establishing a housing and treatment program for the chronically mentally ill.

“I really think we are definitely making progress in housing homeless people and in breaking the cycle,” said Jean DeMaster, director of Burnside Projects. “Where we’re not making progress is being able to document our success.”

Now that the city has an adequate shelter system in place, Steffey said, “We’re moving on to another objective: to be firm with people who won’t comply with the community standard.”

But without the jail space to house those who persist in camping on public property, being firm may just take a lot of persistence, Steffey acknowledged.

“I don’t know what we can do except to haul the stuff away and hope that eventually (the people) will get tired of having their abodes hauled away,” he said. “You just keep going back and dealing with it, just like you do with prostitution or drug dealing.”

Oregonian, July 14, 1988

Last winter, the city’s first shelter program for the homeless at the Athens Hotel was a smashing success, Portland officials say in a new report, but nothing similar is in the works for next winter.

This spring, the city adopted a loan program to finance permanent housing for homeless and other poor people who live in downtown Portland, sparking interest among private developers and social service agencies. But no projects will be finished by winter, and a plan for paying the housing projects’ operating expenses remains elusive.

For the most part, other homeless shelters downtown, such as Baloney Joe’s, Burnside Project’s Northwest Glisan Street Multi-Service Center and the Portland Rescue Mission, were full last winter.

“There’s no reason to assume it will be better next year. I would hope the city comes up with something next year,” said Elizabeth DesCamp, the Portland Development Commission coordinator on the Athens Hotel project.

J. Daniel Steffey, an aide to Mayor Bud Clark, said there were no specific plans to repeat the Athens project. “We’re looking at what shelter needs are,” Steffey said. “We want to make sure we have everyone inside.”

He said the problem might be eased somewhat by the West Women’s Hotel, which serves women and children and will nearly double in size when it moves into new quarters later this summer, and the Rose Apartments — a newly opened building that serves homeless women who have been victims of domestic violence and mental illness, along with former prostitutes and drug abusers.

The Portland Development Commission leased the 87-room Athens Hotel from Kalberer Hotel Supply from December through April in exchange for paying the company’s property taxes.

For the entire project, the city paid $167,000, which included the lease and payments to Central City Concern for repairs and management of the facility.

Athens improves lives

Tenants identified as being capable of living in a hotel setting were referred by social service agencies. A variety of social services were available.

The program “actually got people from the position of being homeless to positions of having jobs and permanent housing,” said project coordinator Elizabeth DesCamp

Out of a total of 147 homeless people who stayed at the Athens for at least a part of the winter, 104 improved their lot in a significant way, DesCamp said. About one-third found permanent housing. About the same percentage had a job when they left the hotel, and others got signed up for food stamps and welfare.

DesCamp said a survey of residents revealed that the average length of time Athens residents had lived in Portland was nine years and seven months.

“Sometimes people have the notion that homeless people are all transients. It’s not true,” she said.

Just having a protected place to stay makes a big difference in getting other aspects of life on track, DesCamp said. “You can’t have a night job if you have to wait in line to get into a shelter,” she said.

The ultimate answer

What officials say will be the city’s ultimate answer to homelessness, however, is new permanent housing for very low income residents, financed through a $2.6 million-a-year Portland Development Commission loan program adopted this spring.

The program offers loans based on cost, not ability to repay. PDC will share in the profit, if any, from eventual resale of the buildings.

The program grew out of a recommendation released more than two years ago by the city’s Housing Advisory Committee, which found that Portland was losing low-income housing downtown at a rapid rate while homelessness was on the rise.

The City Council has established a goal of 5,138 low-income housing units downtown, the number that existed in 1978. Up to 2,500 units could need renovation during the next 10 years, and up to 700 new units may need to be built in order to meet the goal. The initial three-year goal of the program is to develop nine to 15 projects with up to 750 units total, with two-thirds targeted for projects serving persons with incomes of less than $5,500 a year.

Priority projects

Three proposals are considered high priority projects, and three to four others are in the discussion stages, according to Michelle Haynes, project coordinator. About 640 units are involved in all the projects.

“I don’t anticipate any of these projects being completed by this winter,” Haynes said. “We might see one or two coming before the commission for loan approval in September.”

*But when asked if Clark was satisfied with the progress of the loan program so far, Steffey said, “I think he’s pleased with the progress. I don’t know if `satisfied’ is the term I would use.”

Steffey said the loan program extended the public dollars. “It’s a good deal all the way around,” he said.

The priority projects include:

*Purchase and renovation of the vacant Broadmoor Hotel, 301 N.W. Broadway, by Outreach Ministries and Central City Concern. The development commission would contribute about $1 million toward the estimated $1.3 million cost to reclaim 76 single-room-occupancy units.

*Acquisition and renovation of an undisclosed vacant north downtown hotel by local developer David Bowles. The commission would lend about $1.2 million of the estimated $1.6 million cost to reclaim 95 single-room-occupancy units.

*Acquisition and renovation of the Henry Building, 410 S.W. Oak St., by Eastbank Development Co. The commission would contribute about $1.5 million toward the $3.1 million cost of adding 150 units through conversion of this vacant office building.

Other projects under discussion include:

*A proposal by Central City Concern and the University of Oregon to find a location near Union Station for a 60-unit hotel, with 30 low-income units subsidized by a hostel for travelers.

*A proposal by California developer Ken Winslow to build a new, 160-unit, single-room-occupancy hotel. PDC’s Haynes says this one is on the back burner while officials concentrate on renovating existing buildings.

*A proposal by Burnside Projects Inc. to develop 36 units of transitional housing for youths. No site has been selected for this project, either, although there have been negotiations over the Esquire Hotel, Haynes said.

At one time, the priority list also included a proposal by Central City Concern to buy and renovate the Arlington Hotel, 333 N.W. Sixth Ave., but the proposal was withdrawn.

“You could build new housing for less than it would cost to rehabilitate the Arlington,” Haynes said.

Dennis Gillman of Eastbank Development, however, doesn’t agree with that assessment. “I’m talking to some people. I don’t think it’s in that bad a shape,” Gillman said.

Tax credits the key

The key to attracting private investment is a provision of the 1986 federal tax act that created a tax credit for developing low-income housing.

PDC hopes to structure deals so that a private investor or partnership would purchase and renovate the building, then lease it to a non-profit agency to manage. The agency would then purchase the building in 15 years when the tax credits run out.

“We’ve seen a substantial response from the private sector,” Haynes said. “People see this as an opportunity to get involved, and express some public spirit.”

She said the tax credits attract private money, while in turn the program benefits from the skill and knowledge of the private development community.

“Low-income people aren’t going to go away. The public needs to address their needs, and this program begins to do it in the right way,” Gillman said.

Gillman’s proposal to renovate the Henry Building is different in that he is targeting the working poor who are making minimum wages in downtown businesses. Retail uses on the ground floor will help subsidize the housing, he said.

“I think the important thing about the Henry Building is, it’s an opportunity to demonstrate that low-income housing doesn’t have to mean drunks and druggies on the sidewalk,” Gillman said.

“All our rooms will be wired for telephones and cable television,” he said. “People shouldn’t be treated like they’re stuck in a hole somewhere.”

Gillman said providing decent housing for this segment off the population improves the market for middle-income housing. “Overall, I’m investing in the health of the community.”

He likened this kind of investment to infrastructure, such as roads and sewers. “You can’t make money on it, but you can’t make money without it,” he said.

Officials stress that social services must be available to residents of w housing developed through the loan program, and operating subsidies will be required to provide good management and keep rents low.

So far, this piece of the puzzle is absent.

Transfer tax opposed

The Housing Advisory Committee recommended a real estate transfer tax. At a rate of 0.15 percent, such a tax in Multnomah County would raise about $2 million a year, according to a study done by the committee.

The idea has met with opposition from the real estate and building industries, and an informal presentation of the idea in June received a less then enthusiastic response from the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners.

However, Commissioner Gretchen Kafoury said she planned to formally ask the board to refer the tax to the voters, probably in September.

Michael Marcus, chairman of the Housing Advisory Committee, said the idea was very much alive. The board of directors of the Housing Authority of Portland unanimously endorsed the transfer tax, Marcus noted.

Opponents complain that a tax on property transactions ropriate funding mechanism for social services. Marcus and Kafoury concede that an increased overall tax base would be preferable.

“But we can’t wait until that happens to house the homeless,” Marcus said.

“People who can afford to buy and sell shelter are taking advantage of something precisely not available to the homeless,” Marcus said.

Oregonian, December 12, 1988

It is getting crowded at the St. Francis Dining Hall in Southeast Portland. Where 125 people used to have dinner, about 400 come through the doors now, seeking what may be their only meal for the day.

The faces have changed, too. Migrant workers from Mexico and Guatemala mingle with families from Parkrose. The center, operated by the St. Vincent dePaul Society, no longer caters only to those on Skid Road.

“We always used to buy coffee; now we have to buy milk,” said Timothy Hornbecker, director of St. Vincent dePaul.

As the holidays approach, social service agencies are gearing up to bring at least one day of cheer to those who have nowhere to go.

While the number of homeless people is increasing, the number of people who have found housing but need occasional help has leveled off, agency directors say. However, that level remains high, they note.

At Snow-CAP in East Multnomah County, for example, nearly 4,000 individuals seek assistance every month. “People coming to the food agencies are living on the edge of survival,” said Doug Rogers, Snow-CAP director. “They are living a hand-to-mouth existence; they have already gone to their friends, family and neighbors for help, and now they are coming to us.”

While some people are employed, the jobs are part-time or pay only minimum wage and have no medical benefits, Rogers said.

For Christmas and the rest of winter, the agencies need donations of cash, food, blankets, warm clothing, shoes, personal hygiene items, household goods, bus tickets, disposable diapers and toys.

Most of those seeking help are from Oregon, but the agencies are seeing an increasing number of people from other parts of the country, said Bob More, chairman of the Oregon Shelter Network, a group of agencies that provide emergency shelter throughout the state.

When the Shelter Network counts how many people are staying in emergency shelters Dec. 15, More expects the number to be higher than the 2,035 counted Feb. 25. Some of that can be contributed to the influx of migrant workers who either are waiting for their legal papers from the federal Immigration and Naturalization Service or who cannot afford to return to Mexico or Guatemala.

Most of the homeless, however, are families who cannot find low-cost housing, which is at a premium in Oregon. Of those who were counted in February, 18.6 percent were single parents with children and homeless youths; last year, it was 13.5 percent.

While it is easy to count the number of people in shelters, it is much more difficult to know how many live under bridges or in cars and are not receiving any public services, More noted.

In addition, there are what he calls the “couch people”– those who temporarily live with friends or relatives when they have nowhere else to go.

Many of the families Martha Droge sees at the emergency shelter operated by the Washington County Community Action Agency have been hurt by divorce, eviction, illness or job layoffs. One woman told her recently that the family had crawled into the basement window of a house to find shelter.

“Most people are only one paycheck away from being homeless,” said Droge, the shelter’s assistant coordinator.

The only emergency shelter in Washington County, the Hillsboro facility, has a capacity of 20 people and it usually is full, Droge said.

When the Athens Hotel is opened in downtown Portland next week, 90 people will have a room for 90 days if they are willing to participate in a program to get them back into mainstream society. Sixty of those people will come from the programs operated by Burnside Projects.

The agency is trying to raise enough money to keep its day shelter open on weekends during the winter, said Jean De Master, director of Burnside Projects. While Burnside Projects provides a dry, warm place for 300 people every night, its day shelter closes during the day Saturday and Sunday. It would cost $130 a day to keep it open, DeMaster said.

The number of men sleeping at Baloney Joe’s has increased from 30 a night last year to nearly 100 a night this year, said Woody Piquette, manager of the shelter run by Burnside Community Council.

St. Vincent dePaul is planning to feed 25,000 people — enough to fill the Civic Stadium — Hornbecker said. However, to do that, he needs at least $65,000 and has received only $7,500 in contributions.

Other agencies, including the Salvation Army and the Union Gospel Ministries, also need financial help for Christmas celebrations.

Oregonian,, December 17, 1988

As Kathy Bolton pulled into her driveway Thursday night, she could see the candle burning on the dining-room table and her four children huddled around it.

Less than two weeks before Christmas, as overnight temperatures were beginning to dip into the low 30s, power to the house was shut off.

“It was chilly in the house; the kids were waiting for me. I followed them around (with the candle) to their rooms, gathered clothes and left,” said Bolton, 35.

The divorced mother and her children, aged 5 to 12, spent the night at the home of a friend who was away.

According to social service officials, cases like Bolton’s are not unusual.

“That (situation) is very typical of the calls coming in right now,” said Marcia Moskowitz, administrator of community services at the Community Action Agency of Portland.

As the winter’s first cold snap hits the city, the needs of the homeless and families on the financial edge begin to emerge.

In the last 10 days, more than 1,360 calls have been received by the information line operated by United Way of the Columbia-Willamette. They have come from people seeking shelter from the oncoming winter cold or asking for help in making their payments for heating bills.

“The hot line has been real busy,”said Charlene Hipes, manager of the United Way Information and Referral Program. While workers in the program may be able to help some people, “the others, we tell them they have to hang on until January.”

Funds for the Low-Income Energy Assistance Program have been mired in controversy over rule changes proposed by the state of Oregon earlier this month. But Moskowitz said the agency in Portland would begin taking clients Jan. 3. for the energy assistance program.

Bolton said Friday that she was able to get a one-time grant from Adult and Family Services to pay her outstanding electricity bill to Pacific Power & Light Co., and her lights may be turned on Saturday. Friday night, the Boltons would stay in a mostly unfurnished house that belongs to their friend who is out of town.

She and her four children have lived in Oregon since May 1987, and she has tried to make ends meet with part-time jobs and has been working full time as a receptionist since August. But the bills continued to pile up.

She said the power was turned off about a month ago and restored when she made a large payment.

Kathy Merritt, a spokeswoman for PP&L , said the policy of the company was to work with the customers to prevent shutoffs, especially during Christmastime and the cold season. But she said it was difficult to do much with Bolton’s account because there had been a previous default on a payment plan and there had been previous warning notices.

“Our policy is we work with customers,”she said. “These kinds of things make us all very sad.”

Bolton believes the utility could have made allowances.

“I feel (that) as big as they are, they could have given me a week,”she said.

“I have never been on welfare,”said Bolton, adding that there were many other single mothers in her situation. “I am going to make it, and I am going to take care of my kids, and I feel sorry for so many women who I know don’t have anything going for them.”

Thursday night, 340 people stayed in five of the Burnside Projects’ shelters around the city, said Jean De Master, agency director. Many of them are improperly clothed for the weather and seemingly more desperate than before, she said.

“People lined up (Thursday night), panicking that they weren’t going to get inside,”De Master said.

The U.S. Weather Service predicted that overnight low temperatures would drop to 25 to 35 degrees in the Portland area this weekend. Winds on the east side are expected to whip into the 15- to 30-mph range.

De Master said a winter emergency shelter network had been activated, involving the opening of the Athens Hotel , which will make 90 more shelter spaces available. Vans will cruise the city streets, looking for people who have not been able to get out of the cold, she said. In addition, the agency has just completed distributing 650 jackets and sleeping bags and is seeking donations of used jackets for those without proper winter clothing.

Oregonian, June 11, 1989

Behind the warm handshakes and rosy harmony of the recent truce in the Baloney Joe’s controversy — where to place the large shelter and the many transient people it draws — lurked an obvious but elegant truth: The homeless need homes.

Shelters such as Baloney Joe’s provide necessary emergency aid, but in themselves they do nothing to break the cycle of homelessness. And the loss over the last two decades of about 60 percent of the low-income housing in downtown Portland has helped keep the cycle turning.

But the city’s primary weapon for adding to non-shelter housing, a one-year-old loan program to subsidize low-income housing downtown, has been slow to find its target.

“Our production is not what we’d like it to be, or as quick as we’d like it to be,”said Michelle Haynes, the Portland Development Commission’s coordinator for the loan program.

Adopted last spring, the Downtown Housing Preservation Program earmarks $2.6 million a year for loans to subsidize the development of housing for the homeless and near-homeless. The program represents a radical departure for the development commission in that loans are evaluated on the reasonableness of their cost, rather than on an ability of the developer to repay.

The program’s 10-year goal is an ambitious one: to restore the level of low-income housing units in downtown to 5,138, the number that existed in 1978. Up to 2,500 units could need renovation and up to 700 new units may need to be built during the next decade in order to meet that target, officials estimate.

The program’s three-year goal is to develop from 450 to 750 units, with two-thirds of the funds targeted for projects serving persons with incomes under $5,500 a year.

So far, one loan has been approved, and several others are in various stages of negotiation, but no new units have come on line. During the last year, 46 units were lost due to a fire at the Drake Hotel.

Among the reasons for the slow progress:

*Rejection in March by Multnomah County voters of a real estate transfer tax, which was designed to provide operating expenses for projects built under the program. “It was a blow to us,”Haynes said. “Without that, we’re basically thrown back on federal rent subsidies.”

*An expectation that private developers would come forth with loan applications. “I don’t think that was realistic, or even a very good idea to involve the private sector,”said Donald E. Clark, executive director of the Housing Authority of Portland.

“If there was money in poor people, somebody would have stepped in long ago,”Clark said.

*A lack of available properties, particularly north of Burnside Street. “We’re running out of buildings,”Haynes said. Although there seems to be plenty of former residence hotel buildings standing empty, “what we found in the Old Town area was that many owners don’t want to sell, or don’t want to sell for a reasonable price,”Haynes said.

Ironically, the development agency’s own programs to stimulate development in the north downtown area, including extension of the transit mall and upgrading of the Union Station area, may be encouraging building owners to wait for better times.

“I think the dynamic now tends to be that many of these owners have an ability to sit and wait,”said Sharon Nielson, development director for Central City Concern, which owns or manages about 800 low-income housing units downtown.

In an effort to get the program off the ground, representatives of the development agency, the housing authority, Central City Concern, and the business community recently have forged a tighter relationship.

“We sat down together and figured out how we don’t stumble quite as badly over each other’s feet,”Clark said.

The housing authority has agreed take the lead role in finding operational money through applications to the federal government for rental assistance pegged to specific projects.

“In the past the housing authority has been a nag to PDC to get up and get going,”Clark said, “but probably we have not clearly articulated what role it wanted to play.”

Haynes said the development commission was scheduled at its June 14th meeting to discuss the idea of trying to put together deals itself, rather than waiting for applications to come in over the counter.

In October, the commission approved a $1.1 million loan to Central City Concern for the renovation of the five-story Broadmoor Hotel, 301 N.W. Broadway, to provide 76 units, of which 47 will be reserved for chronically mentally ill persons.

The hotel is slated to open in October, Nielson said.

Other loan applications in the works include:

*The Henry Building. The development commission in March rejected an application from Eastbank Community Development Corp. for a $2.3 million loan to renovate the 74-year-old building at 410 S.W. Oak Street. According to Eastbank’s proposal, an operating subsidy would not be needed because the building’s 145 units would be marketed to the working poor, people who could afford to pay about $150 a month in rent.

The commission concluded, however, that Gilman’s financial situation seemed shaky and that project costs were too high.

“We’re continuing to negotiate with Mr. Gilman, trying to salvage that project,”Haynes said. She said a revised loan application may be brought before the commission at its June 14 meeting.

*The Athens Hotel . Developer David Bowles has acquired an option on the 92-unit hotel. Under the proposal, Central City Concern, which has operated a shelter in the building during the last two winters, would provide the management.

*The James Hotel. Central City Concern would like to renovate this 28-unit building at Southwest Fourth Avenue and Stark Street for use as alcohol- and drug-free housing.

Despite the slow start, officials note that a total of 391 units could be available if all these proposals become reality.

Oregonian, December 14, 1989

The Portland Development Commission Wednesday approved a loan request to buy the vacant Athens Hotel for permanent “alcohol-free”housing for homeless graduates of drug and alcohol recovery programs.

The commission granted a loan of $970,000 to Central City Concern, a private, non-profit agency that will own and operate the hotel at Northwest Sixth Avenue and Everett Street.

The development commission, which is the city’s agency for urban renewal and economic development, will manage design, construction and financial packaging of the project.

The project, under the Downtown Housing Preservation Program, calls for eventual renovation of the building and construction of 92 single-occupancy rooms for graduates of 90-day recovery programs. It also calls for ground floor retail space.

Michelle Haynes, a commission project coordinator, said another loan would be sought next year for renovation of the hotel.

She said the hotel would offer permanent housing for residents who can move into the “mainstream and job market”after completing recovery programs.

Adopted last spring, the housing preservation program earmarks $2.6 million a year for loans to subsidize the development of housing for the homeless and near-homeless.

The program’s 10-year goal is to restore the level of low-income housing units in downtown to 5,138, the number that existed in 1978. Up to 2,500 units could need renovation, and up to 700 new units may need to be built during the next decade in order to meet that target, officials say.

The commission also postponed action on acquiring property and redeveloping a 95-acre site near Portland International Airport after affected tenants and landowners asked for a delay.

The Portland City Council earlier this year adopted the Airport Way Development Plan and directed the development commission to begin to implement portions of it.

The site under consideration, called the Holman Redevelopment Area, is bounded by Northeast Airport Way, Interstate 205, the Columbia River Slough and a diagonal line that runs 1,500 to 2,000 feet east of I-205. The estimated cost of the project, including land acquisition and improvements, is $19.6 million.

Larry Brown, a commission project manager, said that developers have shown interest in the area but faced too many problems to solve on their own. Obstacles include fragmented ownership of parcels, vacant industrial and residential structures, and inadequate streets, he said.

Commission staff members have estimated that once the area is developed into a high-density, high-quality employment center, it could support up to 2,800 new jobs.

Lee Johnson, president of Jet Delivery Service at 6225 N.E. 112th Ave., said he first learned of the commission’s proposal on Nov. 28. Johnson, who said he has been at the site since 1983 and has 70 employees, asked for a delay until tenants and land owners review the proposal.

Paul J. Wolf, president of Airport Drayage Co. Inc. at 6331 N.E. 112th Ave., also called for a postponement.

Testifying in favor of the redevelopment plan was Debra Robertson, sales director of the Days Inn Hotel, 11550 N.E. Airport Way.

Robertson said she supported an “overall vision”for redevelopment of the area.”

Harry L. Demorest, chairman of the development commission, said more time is needed to meet with tenants and property owners and learn about their problems and solutions.

No date was set when commissioners will reconsider the plan.

In other action, the commission approved the preliminary design and a proposed $10.6 million construction budget for extension of the Transit Mall north of Burnside Street to Union Station.

The proposal next will be considered by the City Council and Tri-Met so that federal money might be obtained, according to Bruce Allen, a project manager for the development commission.

Allen said the design of the mall extension largely duplicates the existing mall south of Burnside Street.

The commission also agreed to proceed with the $1.1 million purchase of the U.S. Postal Service parking block bounded by Northwest Hoyt and Irving streets, Broadway and Sixth Avenue.

Officials said the acquisition would allow the commission to offer the property along with the former Trailways depot directly to the south for private redevelopment.