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September 14, 2017

Apartment complex for chronically homeless people opens in Portland

Courtesy / Avesta Housing
Courtesy / Avesta Housing
Huston Commons, now home to 30 formerly homeless individuals with chronic health challenges, is located at 72 Bishop St. in Portland.

Avesta Housing and Preble Street have opened Portland's third "housing first" program, Huston Commons, which is now home to 30 formerly homeless individuals with chronic health challenges.

Located near Morrill's Corner at 72 Bishop St. in Portland, Huston Commons was named for Steve Huston, a former Preble Street employee who experienced and overcame homelessness and who was an eloquent and forceful advocate for housing first. "We all deserve the dignity of … a home," he once said.

"The men and women at Huston Commons have not known stability or security for much of their lives," Mark Swann, executive director of Preble Street, said in a news release. "But in this supported environment tenants no longer have to deal with the stress and danger of the streets and begin to hope, to heal, to work on recovery, and create community. Even just after a month, you can see — often literally — what a difference a home makes."

Developed and owned by Avesta Housing, Huston Commons operates in partnership with Preble Street and Portland Housing Authority. Avesta Housing manages the building, and Preble Street provides on-site staffing, including social work services for tenants. Portland Housing Authority provides project-based rental assistance, which allows tenants to limit their rent payments to 30% of their income, while HUD funds cover the balance.

Each fully-furnished efficiency apartment is highly insulated and features water-conserving fixtures and features, a high-efficiency heating system, low or no-volatile organic compound paints and materials and Energy Star-qualified appliances, lighting and fixtures.

'Cost-effective solution'

Like Logan Place and Florence House, which Preble Street and Avesta Housing opened in 2005 and 2010 respectively, Huston Commons will change and sometimes save the lives of the tenants, who include three veterans, eight women, 12 people who have been living and sleeping outside for years and 13 people who were "long-term stayers" in the local shelter system, having spent thousands of nights at emergency shelters

"Portland's affordable housing and homeless crisis is as challenging as we have ever seen. Huston Commons will change 30 lives, more than any other housing initiative this year," said Avesta Housing President and CEO Dana Totman.

Swann and Totman said in addition to helping vulnerable people and making a demonstrable difference in the city's overcrowded emergency shelters, Huston Commons will save the community money.

"As has been proven over and over again, 'housing first' — permanent housing with supportive services — is cheaper than the endless cycle of shelters, emergency rooms, jails, detox programs that chronically homeless people endure year after year," they said in their joint news release. "Housing first is the most humane and cost-effective solution to chronic homelessness."

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