By Nancy Tannler

Raven Russell, Director of Data & Major Projects at Helping Hands Reentry Outreach, has good news about their new facility to help Portland’s homeless during COVID-19 and beyond.

They plan to open 72 emergency shelter beds in September and 300 more by the end of the year at the Bybee Lakes Hope Center (BLHC, formerly the Wapato Correctional Facility).

BLHC has the capacity to eventually serve 525 individuals. Scheduled to open 228 beds this fall, the pandemic has caused them to modify their plans.

“We did a redesign of the reception/lobby area so it will give people plenty of room to maintain social distancing while utilizing the space,” Russell said.

Helping Hands operates 11 facilities for the homeless in Clatsop, Tillamook, Lincoln and Yamhill Counties. This will be their first property in Multnomah County.

BLHC plans to offer wrap around services for those ready to make the necessary changes to become self-sufficient. They establish partnerships with agencies providing addiction, mental and physical health services; health insurance enrollment and food insecurity programs enrollment; while securing government documents (identification, social security cards, birth certificates), employment assistance and vocational training.

The Center will serve men, women and children on a sober campus. The two eligibility requirements are: sobriety and no registered sex offenders. Dogs will be permitted and residents come and go at will with a 15-minute bus ride to downtown.

To be admitted, a person must be referred by a registered community partner: Community Action, Department of Human Services, other shelters, mental and physical healthcare providers, fire departments, business owners, churches, corrections department from the Portland metro area only.

Offering training to community partners at the end of August, the training includes an overview of the programs and services Helping Hands offers, as well as a trauma-informed guideline for how to screen for eligibility.

Helping Hands Reentry Program has a decade-long track record helping clients achieve success. 90 percent of clients who enroll in the Reentry Program complete it. After three years, 80 percent of women and 75 percent of men are maintaining independent housing, according to documentation.

As BLHC evolves, there will be many opportunities for the community to participate in the programming. Volunteer activities are expected to include cooking or serving meals; maintaining community gardens; leading classes on skills training, yoga, meditation, art, bible, reading groups, recovery support and more.

Interested members of the community are encouraged to sign up for their newsletter at bybeelakeshopecenter.com.