At the Merwyn, a prospect at additional than a property | Neighborhood Information

Since an old lodge next to City Hall was converted into very affordable housing this spring, a number of people today who ended up homeless now have apartments.

A person of them is a incredibly familiar encounter: John Wedell.

John Wedell

John Wedell, who experienced been homeless, has moved into the Merwyn Residences.

A fixture downtown regarded for the helmet he wears for protection, Wedell, 74, has not been in housing for nearly a ten years. But right after a challenging winter season and with the support of friends, he used for a spot at the Merwyn Apartments on Duane Road. He moved in earlier this thirty day period.

For individuals who treatment about Wedell, this is a extended hoped for conclusion.

Wedell experienced shown minimal fascination in getting measures to protected housing over the decades. He has been employed as an illustration of the problems social products and services organizations deal with when it arrives to acquiring some homeless people into housing.

In early meetings of the city’s homelessness remedies activity force, just one member termed Wedell “the toughest to remedy dilemma.”

When Wedell has experienced housing, it has not often long gone efficiently. He is the 1st to acknowledge his tendency to acquire issues and fill up his rooms has been a aspect in losing previous houses.

Most problems to Astoria law enforcement about Wedell while he lived on the streets mostly centered all-around his belongings: buying carts, suitcases and containers piled substantial with stuff, cluttering up the sidewalk and at times blocking the line of sight for cars turning on to side streets.

Now, folks who know Wedell are cautiously optimistic he will be equipped to stay in housing this time. Wedell feels constructive, as properly, but it is a adjust, he told The Astorian.

Not the conclude of the story

Social providers employees, homeless advocates and workers at Progressive Housing, the Portland-centered nonprofit that acquired and renovated the Merwyn, warning that simply just locating housing is not the conclude of the story — for Wedell or any of the new tenants who experienced been homeless or precariously housed.


The Merwyn Apartments’ foyer has been refinished.

Ground breaking Housing said tenants who were being homeless or who facial area behavioral problems typically have to have excess aid to remain in housing. For this rationale, the nonprofit provides an on-web-site resident solutions coordinator at other services it manages.

Ideal now, there is no these placement for the Merwyn. Revolutionary Housing programs to explore funding options in the long term, but, for now, the nonprofit is partnering with Clatsop Local community Motion to deliver providers and methods to any battling tenants.

Viviana Matthews, the government director of Clatsop Group Motion, is enthusiastic about the partnership.

She even now thinks generally about an anecdote she listened to at a convention numerous several years in the past: A homeless man went into housing but discovered it impossible to sleep in his room. He experienced been dwelling less than a bridge and he struggled to rest devoid of the regular sounds of targeted traffic passing overhead. The option: His scenario worker purchased him a large, loud fan.

Matthews thinks similar difficulties could surface at the Merwyn.

The apartments, although attractive and at ease just after the considerable renovation, operate compact. Some tenants who experienced been living on the streets or in the woods may well sense claustrophobic at very first.

“We have to do the job with the client to make absolutely sure they experience snug more than enough to contact that their residence,” Matthews reported, including, “That’s a little something we in social services are inclined to ignore.”

As the collaboration with Ground breaking Housing moves ahead, “that is anything we actually have to assume as a result of, not just delivering housing, but delivering the skill for a person to stay housed,” she mentioned.

The task at the extended-neglected Merwyn — also recognised as the Waldorf Lodge — was championed by people today in the neighborhood and some city leaders as a new source of workforce housing where most units would rent perfectly underneath sector fee.

The example typically cited of what a probable tenant may well look like was somebody performing in just one of the reduced-wage work opportunities uncovered in the hospitality and tourism industries. Previously this 12 months, Revolutionary Housing established aside models particularly for downtown employees.

But Progressive Housing regularly works with folks who are homeless or precariously housed. The Merwyn is no unique.

Leah Cooper, the director of housing operations for Revolutionary Housing, stated the tenants in put now “reflect the bigger neighborhood fairly precisely.”

There is a mix of aged and young men and women. Some arrived from other flats or properties. Some arrived from inadequate or unstable housing. Some had been without the need of shelter of any form. Several rely on numerous sources of earnings to make ends satisfy.

Approximately all of the 40 models are now leased, and there are people today determined to lease the units that continue being. The constructing desires to be absolutely occupied by the conclusion of the thirty day period to fulfill deadlines for the project’s funding, according to Cooper.

Osarch Orak, the government director of Filling Empty Bellies, is inspired by Revolutionary Housing’s approach. The barriers to entry are reduced. Managers offer versatility to potential tenants and later on work with citizens to protect against eviction.

In other scenarios, Orak has seen persons get near to reaching housing only to be brought to a standstill by one necessity or another. Even though the Merwyn does not demand a regular rental background, other landlords do. They also could require a latest handle or a cell phone quantity even though the particular person making use of for housing might not have the necessary identification or constant obtain to e-mail or a cellular phone.

Filling Vacant Bellies, a nonprofit that serves lunch to men and women in need to have and delivers other companies geared toward the homeless, has persons they have assisted who have come to be tenants at the Merwyn.

Orak and many others to begin with concerned about a single man in particular, asking yourself if he would be able to remain sober and on track, but he is keeping down a entire-time occupation. The gentleman had the assist of Filling Vacant Bellies and the nonprofit’s local community in the course of the process.

“He’s building it,” Orak reported.

Speaking from his own practical experience of homelessness, Orak explained aid is just as important as a flexible landlord when individuals make these types of a large changeover.

“You cannot just fall them off,” he claimed. “It does not get the job done that way.”

Aid from mates

Wedell has benefited from the advocacy of his pal, Jeff Daly, a photographer and videographer in Astoria. Past calendar year, Daly held neighborhood showings of a small film he created about Wedell.


Most of the units at the Merwyn Residences have been filled.

Daly assisted assemble the information Wedell needed to utilize for a spot at the Merwyn and remained with him by way of the software procedure.

Daly was element of the marketing campaign to help save the Merwyn from demolition and finds it gratifying that the area delivers shelter to somebody he cares about.

“Five yrs ago, we fought and fought to preserve that developing,” he explained. “Who would have at any time identified we would have got John in there — of all individuals!”

Lifestyle outdoors “wears down on you,” Wedell instructed The Astorian, explaining his conclusion to pursue housing just after so lengthy.

To celebrate his to start with night time in the new condominium, he took a very extended bathtub.