Tag Archives: West Hotel

Portland Housing Bureau works to help people maintain stability

From Margaret Van Vliet is the director of the Portland Housing Bureau

With its recent pieces on the West Hotel, Street Roots continues its diligent reporting on issues concerning some of the most vulnerable people in our community. Many SR readers know that the West Hotel is being replaced by the Macdonald Center, and the 27 people who have lived there will have to move.

The new building will house a different – and larger – population of needy people in quality homes that also come with supportive services to help people maintain stability.

In a recent editorial, SR asked whether the Portland Housing Bureau has undermined its goal of ending homelessness by not being more aggressive about relocation requirements when apartments are torn down to make way for redevelopment. Continue reading

Clock winds down on remaining West Hotel residents

The West Hotel on Northwest 6th Avenue.

by Amanda Waldroupe, Staff Writer

With one day until they could be legally evicted from the West Hotel, 15 of the West Hotel’s 27 tenants have found housing and already moved.

Pat Janik, the executive director of the Macdonald Center, the social-service agency which owns the West Hotel, says that the other 12 tenants are far along enough in securing housing that the Macdonald Center will allow those tenants to stay past December 1 until their move-in date.

“It’s just a matter of getting their paperwork done,” Janik says. “I think we are down to four people left who have not already secured housing or with applications. It’s really come along just wonderfully.”

“We’re really hopeful by the end of December that everything is totally fine,”Janik continues.

The Macdonald Center will be rebuilding on the site a seven-story, low-income apartment center for 42 residents and expanded outreach and support services.

John, 68, one of the West’s tenants, is more optimistic about finding new housing than he was two weeks ago. “I got a couple things in the fire,” he says. “We’ll see what happens.”

He also says that tenants are beginning to find housing and are “trickling out” of the West.

“The ones that are looking for places to move are finding them,” John says.

Continue reading

Every time we say goodbye, or what I’ve learned about relocation

A lodger caught in the closure of the Royal Hotel

by Martha Gies, Contributing Writer

The Portland streets are not where you’d want to be living in December. Not with six inches of rainfall and the city wet two days out of every three.

According to Amanda Waldroupe’s report, “Time’s up at the West” (Street Roots, November 12), tenants at the West Hotel have been handed a 60-day eviction notice and a list of apartment buildings. When they say they fear ending up homeless, they have a pretty specific picture in mind. The hotel they are leaving at 127 NW 6th is a 100-year-old “walk-up” where 26 single-room occupancy (SRO) rooms share a community kitchen and baths in the hall. It may not be the Benson, but it’s warm and it’s dry.

To add to the misery, residents hear the term “relocation” bandied about by journalists, social workers and housing advocates. Whatever it is, they fear it may not apply to them.

For the past 14 years I’ve been up to my neck in relocation. Here’s what I’ve learned.

Continue reading

Editorial: Lessons in housing relocation demand change

In “Times up at the West,” (Street Roots, Nov. 12) we highlighted both the challenges and successes of the Macdonald Center to create 42 units of affordable housing in downtown Portland. They’re doing so by demolishing a 27-unit, run-down 100-year-old building now housing extremely poor and vulnerable people. The project is billed at $10 million.

The move means more than two-dozen people have, or will have to relocate to other housing in the city. Unfortunately, with only 60 days notice given in early October, some of the most vulnerable of Portland’s housed population is at risk of becoming homeless on Dec. 1. In this edition, relocation expert Martha Gies puts into perspective the complexities of these moves, and the myriad obstacles involved.

During our investigation we found a series of missteps that have led to the unfortunate circumstances. The Oregon Housing and Community Services seemed to be asleep at the wheel after Street Roots discovered that an agreement between the state agency and the Macdonald Center called for giving people 180-day notices, not just 60-day notices. (The Macdonald Center did send a letter nearly 2 years ago giving tenants information about the upcoming relocations, but no specific timeline or date was given as to the point of eviction.)

Sources also tell SR that the Macdonald Center, uninitiated in the relocation process, did not hire a professional relocation specialist until we began our investigation into the matter in mid-November.

The City of Portland for the most part has remained on the sidelines, while already cash-strapped non-profits work frantically to get people from the West into housing with very little resources.

We call for a time-out.

Maybe it’s possible that everyone at the West will find housing. With the recent hire of a relocation specialist and the partnerships created with local non-profits, we would like to think that all the residents of the West will have a warm place to celebrate the holidays: that despite the lack of oversight by the state and bureaucratic missteps, everything will be all right in the end. But when affordable housing’s best and brightest bring people so perilously close to the streets, we’ve got problems.

We believe in the Macdonald Center. The organization delivers top-notch, award-winning services to the elderly and low-income people of the region. The project will create safe and clean housing units for people currently living on the streets, a much-needed addition to the neighborhood.

The state and the city should work with any Macdonald Center residents unable to find adequate housing by the Dec. 1 eviction date, so that they will be allowed to continue living there until such housing is obtained.

Likewise, the state and the city need to close the loopholes that contribute to these circumstances by requiring that any affordable housing project mirror federal law to require the full relocations of people currently living in low-income housing. Now that we know the system’s faults and consequences, we have to fix it. There are lives hanging in the balance.

Street Roots calls for city, state to change relocation policy to mirror federal law

The story about the West Hotel sheds light on a small but significant loophole in Oregon’s housing system that can have a major impact on the lives of people experiencing poverty.

The MacDonald Center is creating 42 units of affordable housing in downtown Portland by demolishing a 27-unit, run-down 100-year-old building currently housing extremely poor and vulnerable people. It is to be commended for its effort to actually improve the city’s affordable housing stock for our downtown neighbors.

The problem is, according to local and state laws, the organization is not mandated to move the current tenants out of the West and into safe, comparably affordable housing, leaving relocation efforts up for grabs.

When housing developers receive federal funding, they are legally required by the Uniform Relocation Assistance and Real Property Acquisition Act, passed by Congress in 1970, to help the tenants find housing and pay for their relocation.
The Macdonald Center did not receive federal money for the $10 million dollar project, so they are not obligated to find housing for the tenants currently living at the West. According to the MacDonald Center, they are working hard to make sure all of the tenants are supported and have been working with a number of services and housing providers to secure housing for the current tenants.

Unfortunately, it may not be enough. Time will tell.

The MacDonald Center has a remarkable record of working with some of Portland’s most vulnerable populations and does an amazing job at engaging and providing services for people living in poverty, specifically the elderly population. Unfortunately, due to the lack of oversight by the state, they have been set up to potentially fail in relocating a small number of people who may become homeless.

We don’t blame the MacDonald Center for working to do the right thing. The affordable housing business is a complex system that even Portland’s finest find difficult to navigate. Programs to help the poor and hard-to-house are at capacity, and the private market in Downtown Portland is simply not vested in accepting low-income renters, particularly those with criminal records or other complications. With each passing year, the downtown core loses ground on the number of affordable housing units available to low-income families and individuals, increasing the challenges to private developers and nonprofits who ultimately want to do the right thing.

The City of Portland and the State of Oregon should create an avenue to mirror federal policy to require relocation services to individuals experiencing poverty. The cost of prevention is far more economical than the price of getting people back into housing once they’ve been reduced to the streets. It’s also more humane.

Locally, it’s the Portland Housing Bureau’s responsibility to ensure that any affordable housing projects, private or public, work with people experiencing poverty to prevent them from becoming  homeless. If we are going to end homelessness, we cannot simultaneously accept a process that creates it.

Street Roots editorial from the Nov. 12 edition.

Times up at the West with less than a month left to find housing

West Hotel on NW 6th between Davis and Couch

By Amanda Waldroupe, Staff Writer

All is quiet in the West Hotel.

The two-dozen residents of the Old Town single resident occupancy (SRO) hotel are, for the first time in 27 years, no longer kept awake until one in the morning by the cacophonic punk rock sounds that would drift upwards from the iconic rock nightclub Satyricon two floors below.

The building is quiet to the point of eeriness. Entering the West through a black painted door on Northwest 6th Avenue, walking across the small lobby crowded by two recycling bins stored along one wall and up the steep stairs to a heavy wooden door opening to the first floor, a tenant hears nothing but the sounds of his own footsteps.

But there is something else now keeping the West’s residents awake at night: the possibility that they will become homeless if they don’t find new housing and move to it by Dec. 1.

The Macdonald Center, a Catholic-inspired assisted living facility and social-service agency, gave 60-day eviction-without-cause notices to the tenants on Oct. 1.
The MacDonald Center is nationally recognized for its innovative assisted-living facility, the Maybelle Clark Macdonald Residence, which provides assisted living and nursing care for 54 low-income or homeless people with chronic medical illnesses, physical impairments or disabilities.

The Macdonald Center has owned the West Hotel since October 2008. Executive director Pat Janik says the plan was originally to renovate the West. Built in 1905 and in need of extensive repairs, the West is, to use the words of Northwest Pilot Project’s housing consultant Bobby Weinstock, an “old, tired hotel that has outlived its usefulness.” Continue reading