About Transition Projects

For over 50 years, Transition Projects has provided life-saving and life-changing services for people experiencing homelessness in Portland, Oregon.

Since 1969, Transition Projects has been a place where people with nowhere to go can find support. With nearly five decades of experience providing shelter, housing and supportive services for very low-income people, we are recognized across the region for our work with veterans, women, people with disabilities, and other highly vulnerable groups. In 2018 alone, more than 1,100 formerly homeless people found safe, affordable housing in the four-county area with our agency’s support. We’ve come a long way in 50 years!


Take a look through our history to see how we went from one hotel serving 20 men to 12 locations serving over 10,000 men, women, and couples per year.

  • Transition Projects History Slide 1

    Transition Projects story began on November 1, 1969, when a young priest, Reverend Gilbert N. Lulay, leased a hotel on the corner of NW 2nd and Couch in Portland’s Old Town to house homeless men.

    Pictured: Rev. Lulay playing cards with the men living in the hotel

  • Transition Projects History Slide 2

    In March of 1970, Rev. Lulay worked with a consortium of 13 churches to incorporate Burnside Projects. The founding mission: “To provide lodging, food, and other assistance for poor and homeless men.”

    In 1974, Burnside Projects hired its first paid staff. Over the next decade, the agency operated an adult shelter and a youth shelter, an alcohol & drug outpatient program, a day shelter, an employment program, and a hygiene center, among other services.

    Pictured: Burnside Projects’ first site located in Old Town/Chinatown. Shelter staff and clients eat a holiday meal together

  • Transition Projects History Slide 3

    In March of 1987, Burnside Projects opened a new headquarters at 435 NW Glisan. The site included a men’s shelter, administrative offices, and a multiservice center that centralized programs people previously sought throughout the city. 1990 marked the separation of men’s and women’s services – first by a curtain, next by a wall.

    Pictured: Burnside Projects expanded to NW Glisan Street with office space, shelter and day center services

  • Transition Projects History Slide 4

    In 1991, under the leadership of executive director Jean DeMaster, the agency became Transition Projects to highlight the mission of helping people across the city transition from homelessness to housing. From 1992-2007, Transition Projects would open:

    • the Barbara Maher Building (32 units of supportive housing for women in N Portland);
    • Jean’s Place, a shelter for women in NE Portland;
    • the Clark Center shelter for men in SE Portland, and
    • the Clark Annex next to the Clark Center (22 units of supportive housing for men).

    Pictured: Jean’s Place (top right), named after Jean DeMaster (pictured center); Barbara Maher (top left); Clark Annex (bottom left) and Clark Center (bottom right)

  • Transition Projects History Slide 5

    In 2011, Transition Projects partnered with the City of Portland and Home Forward to open the landmark Bud Clark Commons, an innovative project that set new standards for providing shelter, day services, and housing.

    The building houses the Transition Projects Resource Center, Doreen’s Place men’s shelter, Transition Projects administrative offices, and five floors of Home Forward’s permanent supportive housing.

    Pictured: 2009 Bud Clark Commons groundbreaking (center); completed building located at NW Broadway & Hoyt (left); and the Resource Center (right) offering services to 500+ people daily, 365 days a year

  • Transition Projects History Slide 6

    Recognizing the value of lived experience, the Mentor Program, developed in 2011, supports both the professional development of formerly homeless individuals (Mentors) and provides essential peer services to persons experiencing homelessness, mental health issues, and addiction (Mentees). Since then, the program has graduated more than 170 Mentors.

    Pictured: Winter 2018 graduating Mentor Program cohort (top) and the first graduating Mentor Program cohort in 2011 (bottom)

  • Transition Projects History Slide 7

    In 2012, after decades of serving Veterans in shelter, we became the leading agency in Oregon helping Veterans and their families return to permanent housing through the federally-funded Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) program.

    In 2013, we joined in the Obama administration’s national challenge to end Veteran homelessness and expanded our efforts to the four-county metro area. By 2016, with Transition Projects playing a lead role, Portland was recognized by the federal government for having effectively ended veteran homelessness.

    Pictured: Photos from the 2018 Portland Veteran Stand Down, an annual event led by Transition Projects supporting veterans experiencing or at risk of homelessness

  • Transition Projects History Slide 8

    In 2015, we converted what had been a winter-only shelter for women into a permanent, year-round program now known as the Safety Off the Streets (“SOS”) shelter that serves 70 women.

    In 2016, the City of Portland declared a state of emergency around housing and homelessness. The same year, we opened the Willamette Center shelter for 120 women and couples – the first couples shelter in the country – and assumed leadership for most of the county’s severe weather program – adding 325 additional beds for those seeking a warm, safe place to stay on dangerously cold nights in Portland and Gresham.

    Pictured: SOS Shelter for women, located in what was the Burnside Projects NW Glisan St. building; the Willamette Center located in Sellwood/East Moreland neighborhood (background)

  • Transition Projects History Slide 9

    In 2016, we also expanded our Mobile Engagement team – outreach workers who engage people living on the streets in downtown Portland and connect them to essential resources, support services, and shelter.

    In 2017, we took ownership of the Rent Well program, a tenant education program taught by certified instructors in Oregon and Washington. The course covers key information and skills for becoming a responsible, successful, and stable tenant.

    Pictured: Mobile Engagement Supervisor Ieiasha (left) working with a person living on the street; Rent Well instructor Michelle reviewing a homework assignment with a class participant

  • Transition Projects History Slide 10

    In the spring of 2019, Transition Projects will break ground on LISAH (low-income single adult housing), an innovative approach to providing deeply affordable housing for those we serve.

    Today, Transition Projects operates across 10 unique sites throughout the Metro-Area. Over half a century the agency, started by a handful of volunteers, has grown to its current team of over 300 employees who serve over 10,000 people each year. Our current team of over 800 volunteers accounts for 31,000+ service hours annually. We now house over 1,200 people each year and are the largest provider of shelter beds in the Portland Metro-Area. We remain driven in our mission to help people experiencing homelessness transition to housing.

    Pictured: A rendering by Holst Architecture of the LISAH complex


Though helping someone end their homelessness isn’t easy, we see success every day.

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