October 19, 2021

Oregon’s Project Turnkey: Bold Action and Collaboration

By: Megan Loeb
Senior Program Officer, Economic Vitality and Housing

Community leaders, government agencies, philanthropy invest in innovative housing solutions for long term stability

Last October, as the foliage changed color and temperatures dropped, a collective fear was rising around the issue of houselessness in Oregon. Our state was facing the ultimate triple threat: an existing housing crisis, worsened by the pandemic, and further exacerbated by the Labor Day Fires which wiped out 4,500 homes in a span of a few days.

Project Turnkey was born out of the urgency of these crises. Oregon’s Legislature allocated $65 million to help nonprofits and local entities acquire motels for immediate use as short-term shelter with an eye toward conversion to transitional or permanent housing in the future, making them a strategic investment of state funds. 

Oregon Community Foundation (OCF) administered the Project Turnkey grant program supported by community advisors —people with both direct and related expertise with Oregon’s housing crises - to identify, recommend and review applicants for state funds to acquire motels.  As nonprofits, cities, and counties submitted proposals, they approached this rare capital opportunity recognizing the importance of housing people most disproportionately impacted by these crises.

Two commercial real estate experts guided local applicants through detailed due diligence, to ensure selected motel properties were the right fit for the needs of the priority populations to be housed. Consultants and advisors also ensured the properties were in good physical condition and well-suited for investment and longer-term housing in the future.

In several communities, this is the very first year-round shelter. These rooms offer people dignified safe shelter, supportive services and a pathway to permanent housing and stability. 

"Having a place now, it’s night and day. as far as just being able to not look homeless, and being able to open doors for opportunities and whatnot," Bob Beltran said, as one of the first people housed at the Promise Inn Project Turnkey site in Pendleton.

Many of the people served through Project Turnkey have successfully navigated to their own apartments over the past six months—an outcome that mirrors the findings of a University of Washington study which suggests non-congregate shelter (e.g. a motel room) leads to better long-term outcomes for people facing housing insecurity.

OCF is grateful to the Project Turnkey Advisory Committee for their alacrity and dedication, and to the remarkable service providers working tirelessly around our state to provide dignified shelter, supportive services, and navigation to permanent housing for the most vulnerable in our communities.

A retrospective report on Project Turnkey highlights grant recipients and their efforts to address housing insecurity throughout Oregon.

Project Turnkey may not be the panacea to this complex issue—but it is one powerful model of public-private sector partnerships working together to take bold action in the face of crisis.

To learn more, please visit: Oregon’s Project Turnkey Report to the Oregon State Legislature