Forget Portugal, what about Cleveland?

The Washington Post editors are all ga-ga about the conversion of downtown offices to apartments that is going on in Cleveland, Ohio, of all places. Apparently housing units have been created in five former office buildings there.

They say it's going on in Calgary, Alberta, too.

The taxpayers in both cities subsidized these projects to an obscene extent. But at least they show that conversion can be done under some circumstances.

There's not much in the Post articles about the crime situations in those places. I'm sure there's far more law and order in the Cleveland and Calgary downtowns than there's been in Portland over the last few years. Methinks we are going to have to get the crises on the streets under control before anyone will even take out a calculator to start penciling out what it would take to turn Portland commercial space into housing.

And speaking of developers with sharp pencils and a taste for taxpayer money, did you see where Homer Williams's nonprofit is giving up on the shelter it built under the west side of the Broadway Bridge? Homer and the Gang say they've had it with the way the place is being run by the homeless industrial complex.

This week, neighbors received a postcard in the mail from Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler’s office alerting them that the nonprofit Oregon Harbor of Hope — which holds the lease for the shelter — is ceasing its operations come Jan. 1. 

It turns out they share many of the same concerns as the surrounding neighbors and are unhappy with how the shelter is run. They don’t manage the shelter’s day-to-day operations; Multnomah County's Joint Office of Homeless Services hired Transition Projects to run it. 

It’s the Transition Project's management of the shelter that Harbor of Hope has an issue with, so they no longer want to be involved and asked the city of Portland to take their place. 

“It’s been a constant battle, and we felt that if this was going to continue that, it would be best in the hands of the city,” said Homer Williams, the chairman of Harbor of Hope....

With roughly two weeks until Harbor of Hope’s lease is up, the mayor’s office is quickly working to get the needed permits and approvals to keep the shelter open. 

“Transition Projects' contract to operate the site runs through Spring of 2024, and in the interest of maintaining stable operations through this period of transition, we do not plan to make changes to this contract in the near term," a spokesperson for the mayor’s office said in a statement. "We have made no firm decisions about a site operator over the longer-term, but welcome feedback from the neighbors on the operation of the site and how site operators can operate within the neighborhood.”... 

“It would be a great tragedy if we go ahead and close it now and put another 100 people out on the street. The facility probably helps probably three to four hundred people a year,” Homer said....

Stanley Penkin of the Pearl District Neighborhood Association said there was an “accumulation of trash, criminal activity, the building up of tents.”

But Transition Projects and Harbor of Hope disagree over who is responsible for preventing those things.

There has also been a fight over a Safe Rest Village next to the shelter.

Harbor of Hope said it’s also impossible to get monthly or quarterly reports on the outcomes for people living at the shelter.

“We had a responsibility to the people who made the investment here to let them know what was going on,” Williams said.

Old Homer's already on record as saying office-to-housing conversions aren't feasible. And now he's bailing on the social service side of things, which is a prerequisite for private investment in the Portland core. To me, that sounds ominous. I doubt the Washington Post will be gushing about the City of Roses any time soon.


  1. Conventional wisdom depicts the homeless as inept, incompetent and aimless. Yet they are, for the most part, able to find food, locate discarded RVs for shelter and perform appropriately for TV reporters.

  2. Transition Projects is the same group that allowed Argyle Gardens to devolve into squalid conditions and crime in less than three years of operation. Lots of Vice Presidents on its payroll.

  3. If you don't take away the drugs (even if you pretend to), then the crime, violence, disorderly conduct will continue to ruin it for everybody else. We need tough love camps, not enablement centers. And isn't the city swimming in money?


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