Portland’s hotels are burdened not by visitors but their cancellations. Its restaurants aren’t cooking up much beyond anxiety, what with their diminishing staff and ingredients going unused. And its shops’ goods are collecting more dust than purchases.

Now that its raisons d’etre have been severely diminished, like lung capacity during COVID-19, the city’s got a golden moment to prove its value beyond vacations.

Step up, volunteer your assets as temporary shelters and hospitals.

Not much difference between a hotel room and a hospital bed these days, and cannot a single hotel floor house the homeless, sheltering them from becoming the next wave of ill? (Hint: Preble Street needs help!) If cafeteria-sized kitchens had to change into sterilization stations, isn’t the city surrounded by underutilized restaurants? And the city’s gift shops and day spas could conjure ways to rejuvenate the spirits of those who’ve had to watch others die coughing.

The city could decide that the faster this goes away, the faster it gets back to booming business. And it could do that without too much retooling or repurposing of its existing assets. But business doesn’t get back to booming (or even normal) until COVID-19 becomes a bad memory for us all. How fast can Portland make this happen?

Kaye Owens


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