Our new Downtown Winter Shelter is both nondescript and a landmark. Located in the vacant Greyhound Bus Station, the challenge to opening this shelter was, as Jordan, Shift Supervisor, (pictured below) explains, "to make this huge space as welcoming and homey as possible." Serving 90 individuals experiencing homelessness, this shelter prioritizes individuals located in Old Town, people 55 and older, those with disabilities, and Veterans.
Jordan worked in three other shelters before joining the team that opened this site. He is from Portland, and for him, the work is deeply personal. Finding a job that made a difference in the lives of others was instilled in him from a young age. Growing up, he supported his dad’s employment training program that helped differently-abled people access and retain jobs. He joined Transition Projects at the recommendation of a friend who was working in our shelters. For him, helping people transition from homelessness to housing is the most meaningful way to support the city that raised him.
"When you see someone finally enter shelter after living on the streets, you see them grow into someone who can be successful in housing," remarks Jordan.
This sentiment drives the Downtown Winter Shelter team to provide comprehensive support to the 90 individuals and couples residing on-site. As he explains, “the end goal is always stable housing, but if we can provide our participants with resources and a safe place for the duration of the winter, that's something we can feel good about.”
To make that goal a reality, our team ensures that all participants meet with case managers and wellness access specialists on a regular basis. Helping clients access supportive services such as primary and mental health allows them to regain stability. When opening this shelter, our team made the intentional choice to bring more supportive resources than are normally offered in emergency shelters to bridge the gap between shelter and housing. This includes working with community-based organizations like Central City Concern to offer basic medical care and same-day Oregon Health Plan enrollments, and Blanchet House to serve nutritious meals. It is our hope that this will help participants in this shelter, many of whom have experienced chronic homelessness or have underlying health conditions, more easily transition into housing.
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One of the clients staying at the Downtown Winter Shelter is Wanda. Originally, from Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, she has lived in Salem for many years. When her son, who suffers from a severe mental illness, had an episode that resulted in a run-in with the Portland Police, she came to town to sort out how to best support him. "I was staying in a hotel," she explains, "but, when my money ran out, I ran out of options, so I set up camp downtown."
When she heard about Transition Projects and the support we offered, she came to our Resource Center the very next day to get connected to shelter.
“Being here is like a blessing,” she says.
Since arriving, Wanda has been working with our team to connect to housing placement services and has been able to help her son navigate the complicated legal system. When she spoke to our team, she emphasized just how important it is for her to be able to catch her breath, consider her options, and take her next steps which include being a support system for her son.
“My son is my best friend,” she explains, “and since being in prison he’s lost so much weight and all of his hair. He’s not getting the help he needs and I’m so glad that I’m able to be here in town and serve as his advocate while taking my next steps towards housing.”
All clients we serve have stories like this. Of being housed, experiencing trauma or loss, and then ultimately regrouping to find their way. We're proud to stand by and support our neighbors as they seek to end their homelessness.
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