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Homeless population counted in Douglas County

Martina defines her situation as “residentially challenged.”

She was counted and got a housing application for her and her boyfriend.

Cindy is in a temporary living situation.

She was counted and got a hot bowl of chili.

Edward has been on the streets on and off for four years.

He was counted and got clothes, toiletries packed in medicine bottles, and food.

Most of the people in the Dream Center on Wednesday seemed to know each other as they mingled around the chili, plastic bags of clothes, backpacks and boxes of food. But according to the survey administered by volunteers, the identity of people experiencing homelessness remain anonymous.

The survey originates from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and includes questions about veteran status, mental and physical disabilities, alcohol and drug abuse, HIV and AIDS, domestic violence, time without permanent housing, and cause for leaving last living arrangement. The list of options is 21 items long and includes an option for “other.”

The survey is called the ‘Point in Time’ count and is a combined effort between HUD and local organizations to make sure every homeless person is counted, which then helps organizations requesting federal aid to show what the community needs.

The United Community Action Network is the group in the Douglas County area that led the count. Two stationary sites were set up in Roseburg, and several roaming teams went to the edges of the county to make sure everyone was counted and received resources.

“They’ll be in vans or one bus,” UCAN Homeless Outreach Coordinator Larry Clark said. “We fill them with supplies, and hopefully some of the homeless can congregate in those locations. We’ll be stopping there and then driving around to the different camps.”

Cindy used her last paycheck to stock up on supplies, so she passed on the jackets, clothes, sleeping bags and toiletries being handed out at the St. George Episcopal Church on Cass Avenue.

“I’m covered for a while, so I didn’t want to get any more because I don’t need any more,” she said. “It’s good that they are here today.”

She used to work for UCAN before her position was eliminated a few years ago.

“I participated in this on the other side,” Cindy said. “Unfortunately I qualify, so I thought I’d check it out. I always wondered how people ended up homeless. I was always curious about their stories. We live in one of the richest countries in the world. It shouldn’t be like this.”

Karen McGuire is a Retired Veteran Service Partner at UCAN and helped serve doughnuts and chili at St. George’s. She said they moved from the First Presbyterian Church due to flooding in the fall and were seeing smaller numbers than previous years — not because there are fewer people without permanent shelter, but because the Dream Center was participating in the count for the first time in the new location in the basement of the First Baptist Church.

“That’s where people are comfortable and it’s been flooded today, they’ve had such an influx,” McGuire said. “Everybody is down there at the Dream Center because they know it.”

WorkSource Oregon, the Department of Human Services, the Wings of Love and the Roseburg Veterans Affairs Medical Center had representatives between the two stationary sites providing services to people who came.

Juvenile department tries to improve and diversify diets of kids living at Roseburg facility

Getting kids to eat healthy food can be difficult. But making sure kids living in state custody eat a well-rounded diet is a different task entirely.

Sarah Wickersham, treatment manager at the Douglas County Juvenile Department, has been trying to learn how to provide healthier, tastier food for kids at the Roseburg facility. That goal can be a challenge, she said, because she works with a highly-regulated food system, and kids don’t always want to eat healthily.

Last week, Wickersham attended a cooking demo at the Brix event center aimed at giving commercial and institutional chefs tools to incorporate more plant-based foods into their meals. Blue Zones Project organized the demo, which drew chefs from local schools, restaurants and assisted-living facilities. Wickersham said will try to use some of the products and methods shown at the demo.

She said the southern-fried tofu on Bisquick biscuits and garbanzo bean gravy made at the demo by Peggy Cheatham and Felicia Mellor, owners of Gathering Grounds Coffee House, might be too labor intensive for the juvenile facility.

But Wickersham was particularly interested in a bouillon concentrate shown at the demo by Lani Radier, a Portland-based chef and founder of NOBULL Specialty Foods. Radier demonstrated how her umami mushroom starter concentrate could be used in small amounts to make soups, sauces for meats, salad dressing and other nutritious meals.

“I’m always looking for easy ways to make scratch meals or healthy meals,” Wickersham said. “That bouillon she had was fantastic. I’m really hoping I can find a way to get that over here.”

A good diet is crucial to kids’ development and overall well-being at the facility, she said.

Forty out of 55 kids live at the facility’s two foster care residences.

“All of these kids have been traumatized,” she said about the foster kids. “This isn’t something they did, it was something that was done to them. They’re sad and hurt, and food is one of those comfort things that’s really the last thing you can address when you’re working with their mental health, because they just like what they like.”

The adolescents and young adults living in the facility’s foster care want comfort foods like potatoes, hamburgers and pizza, Wickersham said.

“It’s kind of a balancing act,” she said. “We put salads on the menu and then a cheeseburger once a week.”

Even if facility staff can convince kids to eat their vegetables, it’s still difficult to get nutritious ingredients and have enough time to cook them into something healthy, according to Wickersham.

“We’re not super healthy right now,” she said. But she has been making changes to improve that.

The facility recently started preparing nearly all of the kids’ meals in-house. Its old contract provided already prepared meals. Under the new contract, staff prepare most of the kids’ meals in the kitchen with ingredients delivered by the food distributor Sysco.

The prepared meals under the old contract were never filling, Wickersham said.

“Even if it’s not great food, full kids are happier,” she said. “They don’t act out as much when they’ve got enough in their bellies.”

Staff also try to involve students in planning and cooking meals so they can gain life skills, according to Wickersham. Kids often cook for themselves and other kids too.

“(A friend) didn’t have lunch yesterday so I made her potatoes out of the potatoes we bought for the Sunday dinner,” said Jane Thompson, a teenager in foster care at the Roseburg facility. Staff asked that The News-Review change the names of kids for confidentiality purposes.

“Sunday I made shepherd’s pie because it’s my favorite,” Thompson said.

She also bakes cookies whenever she can, she said.

Thompson had few complaints about food at the facility. She said she doesn’t like that the facility can only buy whole wheat pasta — since the facility receives federal money, it has to abide by U.S. Department of Agriculture dietary standards, which say whole wheat pasta is healthier than white flour pasta.

Wickersham is committed to diversifying the kids’ diets.

Rigid county, state and federal limits on how the facility spends its money will make it hard for Wickersham to buy the bouillon concentrates that Radier showed at the cooking demo if Radier doesn’t make the products available through Sysco.

Wickersham plans to contact her and see if that’s possible, she said.

Sam Gross, the owner of Loggers Pizza in Roseburg who also attended the demo, said since no local stores carry the concentrates, he would be interested in ordering them and distributing them to local institutions who want them.

“That’s a bigger conversation that we haven’t had yet because it requires some contracting and things like that if we’re going to share money,” Wickersham said. “It’s county money. It’s miles of red tape.”

Woman falsley reports mass murder through new Text-to-911 service

A few days after the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office began accepting Text-to-911, a Roseburg woman was arrested for falsely reporting a mass murder, according to the sheriff’s office.

Emergency dispatchers received a message Wednesday night from 34-year-old Nicole Rene Hall who reported there was a hostage situation in the 500 block of Orchard Lane, Roseburg, and that a mass murder had occurred.

Deputies were able to determine Hall’s location and promptly arrested her on suspicion of improper use of 911, a Class A misdemeanor, and second-degree disorderly conduct.

“This false incident tied up multiple resources from citizens who legitimately required services and is completely unacceptable,” said Brad O’Dell, a spokesman for the sheriff’s office. “The sheriff’s office will always hold accountable those who misuse our 911 system, whether that is by voice call or text messaging services.”

The sheriff’s office began accepting emergency text messages just last week with the intent of benefiting people that may not be able to speak due to an emergency like a home invasion or a domestic dispute.

People who are deaf, hard of hearing, or have speech disabilities may also benefit from the service. The service is not yet available statewide, so if a text is sent to 911 from a wireless carrier or a city or county that does not support the service, the caller should receive a text message indicating the message did not go through.