Editors Note- Correction 4/27/21: The article when published stated that questions had been sent to the City and that no response had been received. The questions were not received by proper City Staff/personnel thus no responses could have been offered. We apologize for any insinuation that the City of Hillsboro was not cooperative or purposefully staying silent on the matter. The questions have been tendered properly as of yesterday and when an answer is given we will update the article. The questions are as follows:
ANSWERS WERE SUPPLIED 4/21/2020- See Below in Red-
This is a County project and the County is the decision-maker on the project. To our understanding, this would not be a permanent housing shelter, rather a time-limited use in response to COVID-19. Staff have been discussing the project with the County, particularly about the land-use and permitting process, and about communications. We have voiced our support for assisting with communication and engagement with the community, both individually with community members and businesses, as well as in sharing what the County communicates out in the Happening in Hillsboro email newsletter and the next City Views newsletter.
4/20/21 – We have much to be proud of here in Hillsboro. There are many big-city problems too. As I travel around Hillsboro I see many things that we are all struggling with. One of those is housing the growing homeless population. While not a hardship unique to Hillsboro, we do seem to have a growing issue.
The Herald has been contacted twice now about a new housing community that will serve those who are homeless or house challenged. That led to some phone calls and while it took a while we are now able to report on the record what we have found.
The Herald reached out to the City of Hillsboro and to Washington County. While we have not yet heard from the City (which we have sent questions updated as of 4/20/21), the County did send a lot of information. It has been confirmed by the Herald that the Econolodge at 622 SE 10th Avenue, Hillsboro, Oregon will be the home for many of our unhoused population by Summer. Here is what we learned from Julie McCloud, Public Affairs and Communications Coordinator at Washington County.
To help address the immediate needs of homeless individuals during the pandemic, Washington County is working with Project Turnkey, a program created by the Oregon Legislature for the purpose of acquiring motels and hotels to serve as temporary housing for people experiencing homelessness. With funding support from Project Turnkey, Washington County is seeking to purchase the Econo Lodge on SE 10th Avenue in Hillsboro to establish a short-term respite shelter for COVID-19. This emergency shelter would temporarily house individuals experiencing homelessness who have either tested positive for COVID-19 or are symptomatic and need to isolate from others. The motel would also serve as a temporary non-congregate shelter. The project plan includes 24-hour, onsite management by a contracted and qualified shelter care provider.
The County has been working through a due diligence process to obtain the property and secure required permits from the City of Hillsboro. Washington County has yet to receive final approval for funding from Project Turnkey for the purchase. We are still working on a few key components of the application and are awaiting final approval. If approved, Washington County will provide detailed information and seek feedback from local residents, area businesses and other stakeholders regarding the project in the very near future. This would include a (virtual) community meeting for interested parties to learn about the project and give input.
If the project moves forward, following a brief renovation period, the County would begin operating the site for one year as a respite shelter on or about July 1. Throughout the first year of operation, the County would continue to explore a range of options for the facility moving forward. explore a range of options for the facility moving forward.
Concerns Over Placement-
The Herald has fielded several calls from people in the communities directly affected by the potential conflicts that may exist with temporary housing being placed into this specific part of Hillsboro. It is no secret that this location is smack dab in the middle of our Latino Community business district. The area has struggled over the years to become vibrant and successful. In the past decade, great strides have been made in that direction and a series of new businesses have flourished. Those reaching out to us had concerns about why this location has been selected and why the community at large was not asked to be involved. We appreciate those concerns.
The Herald went back to the County staff for further questions and received these answers from Josh Crites, Assistance Director of the Washington County Housing Services.
HH: Can you tell us more about why this location was selected and how this process is working:
JC: We understand there are concurrent crises taking place around COVID 19, homelessness, and affordable housing. The Econo Lodge is an important option if funded to help address some of these crises. The County is also in the midst of implementing Metro’s Supportive Housing Services (SHS) measure which will bring additional resources to the community to house our chronic homeless population.
HH: So the County intends to purchase the hotel, not lease it, correct?
JC: Yes, Washington County executed a purchase and sale agreement to begin due diligence on the purchase of the Econo Lodge motel at 622 SE 10th Avenue in Hillsboro. The County is still in negotiations at this point. The County sees this option as an evidence-based solution to the concurrent crisis facing our community around COVID-19 and homelessness.
HH: The Hotel is already being used as a shelter, correct?
JC: The Econo Lodge as a hotel has worked with different organizations including the County over the years to do temporary hotel vouchering programs. A portion of the rooms at the hotel are currently serving houseless persons in a separate program funded by the County to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and support houseless persons as they transition to affordable housing.
HH: The community input will be after the decision has been made, correct?
JC: The county is awaiting final approval from Project Turnkey before proceeding with the project. Community input would inform how the shelter would operate, what neighbors can expect, and to answer any questions from the community.
HH: Is this the only hotel in Hillsboro being considered for this project, or are there others?
JC: Washington County has had great success operating a similar non-congregate respite shelter since the Spring of 2020 at the former Comfort Inn along with NE Cornell, near the Hillsboro Airport. This shelter assisted many of the most vulnerable individuals in our community with the services and resources to recover from COVID 19 or reduce the spread of COVID 19. No decisions have been made yet about future locations, but it is important to remember that these non-congregate shelters are a best practice for providing some of our most vulnerable populations the space they need to prevent the spread of COVID-19 while also connecting them to services and permanent housing options.
HH: What has been communicated Between the City of Hillsboro and Washington County?
JC: We have partnered with and been in close contact with the City of Hillsboro throughout this process.
HH: Will the County or Project Turnkey need to have a land-use process inside Hillsboro to get the Econolodge properly approved for the intended use or is that not an issue?
JC: There were no issues with land as our proposed plan is an allowed use by right confirmed by the Planning Department in Hillsboro.
Josh Crites is available at:
Josh Crites (he/him/his) / Assistant Director /Washington County Department of Housing Services
(503) 846-4761 | (503) 846-4795 fax / Joshua_Crites@co.washington.or.us
Is this Fair? Is it equitable and inclusive? Was there community input? How will the Latino businesses feel when this use goes in and they have not had a chance to weigh in?
Hillsboro Equity Statement
The City of Hillsboro is committed to equity. … We must be inclusive in developing and implementing policies to ensure that City services are responsive to race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, ability, religion, and other individual identities.
This is an example of “implementing policies” and of providing “city services”. Was this Equity Statement a part of this process? It seems not to have been.
Washington County’s policies on Equity and Inclusion are part of a very long document but here are some key takeaways:
Washington County shall Commit to:
a. Fostering, supporting and strengthening equity and inclusion in the County’s
programs, practices and policies; and
b. Continuing to develop our understanding of the inequities that County policies,
programs and practices may cause; and
c. Continuing to provide the leadership to make Washington County more equitable
and inclusive to all marginalized groups; and
d. Ensuring that we spend the public’s dollars in a way that maximizes benefit for the
community and provides equitable access for all suppliers and contractors; and
e. Allocating and providing the resources needed to advance diversity, equity and
inclusion in Washington County, and ensuring the County’s new Office of Equity,
Inclusion and Community Engagement is resourced to achieve the goals of this
Again one must consider. Was placing this particular shelter here in a mostly Latino business community equitable and inclusive? The phone calls we have received seem to indicate that it was not.
Are these statements goals and objectives that will lead to action items or merely words?
In this case, we have people who have been forced out of traditional housing being served in a beneficial manner which is very good. Using the Econolodge seems to be more economically motivated.
The question is would the same action without Community input have been taken if a hotel in Tanasbourne or near Northwest Hillsboro or Orenco was for sale? This decision does seem tough to defend when viewed from an altruistic point of view.
Want to weigh in? Send your comments or question to the Hillsboro Herald right here, or use the comments section below. What do you think Hillsboro?