Work is underway this summer at the Aloha Inn to turn a three-story hotel into Washington County’s first-ever permanent supportive housing building for people who have experienced prolonged homelessness.
Metro and Washington County housing staff toured the hotel renovation site on May 20 to get the first glimpse of progress toward what will eventually be 54 studio apartments. The Washington County Housing Authority purchased the hotel in 2021 and is using $8.5 million from Metro’s affordable housing bond to fund both the purchase and renovations.
The apartments are designed to serve some of the region’s most vulnerable people, many of whom need support for substance abuse disorders or severe mental illness. “This kind of housing is urgently needed to help people waiting for housing in our shelter programs, or still sleeping outside,” said Jes Larson, supportive housing services program manager for Washington County.
The building’s northern wing served as a short-term shelter during the first part of construction and is now undergoing renovation along with the southern wing. Construction is expected to be complete in fall 2022.
Residents will have access to on-site supportive services from Bienestar, Sequoia Mental Health Services and Community Partners for Affordable Housing, which will be funded by Metro’s supportive housing services measure. There are also several practical amenities in the immediate area, including an adjacent pharmacy and frequent bus service.
“Using Metro funds for both physical renovation and ongoing direct services is a prime example of Washington County thinking holistically about how we help people move from the challenges of homelessness into the pride of permanent housing,” said Patricia Rojas, Metro housing program director.
Each furnished studio apartment will include a bathroom and kitchenette, with trauma-informed design throughout – such as cool, soothing colors – in recognition of the challenges that a transition from homelessness to permanent housing can present.
Project architect Melynda Retallack of Ink: built Architecture said the firm worked to build in their commitment to equity, affordability and sustainability through community design and planning efforts, local policy engagement and activism "to demonstrate the best potential for equitable urban housing and a deeper commitment to building community.” The firm also designed the Breitung Building, which is run by Do Good Multnomah and provides permanent supportive housing for veterans with funding from Metro’s supportive housing services measure.
The project’s construction is being managed by locally based contractor GSI Builders Inc., a family-run, Latino-owned company with roots in Washington County and a commitment to bringing affordable housing to the community. “We at GSI are grateful to have the opportunity to be a part of a much needed and very impactful project,” said company president Alex Garcia Seabold. “Having active community involvement as a multigenerational family in Washington County, I’d like to think we are building more than just buildings, we are building up our local communities that need it most.”