City council will discuss helping homeless
With the easier work behind them — namely selecting four goals that were extended another two years and adding an uncontroversial fifth one — the Roseburg City Council on Monday will wrestle with the hardest task before them, which is coming up with a framework of policies to address the city’s growing homeless population.
The council has met twice already, two hours each time, and agreed on a set of five goals to focus on for the next two years. The council generally sets new goals every two years. Four of the goals they have agreed on so far were first established in 2017. They are:
- Develop and implement policies to enhance housing opportunities.
- Implement transportation funding policies to meet identified community needs.
- Enhance community livability and public safety.
- Take a proactive role in economic development and community revitalization.
The Council also approved a fifth goal, prompted in large part by the snowstorm that struck the area this past winter. That goal:
- Update and implement the City’s Emergency Preparedness Plan.
The Councilors have identified their final goal, along with a handful of action items to help implement the goal.
- Explore strategies to address issues related to unhoused individuals within the community. The action steps include: Identify the city’s role in the unhoused crisis; continue participation/support for a sobering center; and work with ADAPT towards sustainable funding for crisis intervention.
In correspondence with City Manager Nikki Messenger, several city councilors shared their ideas for addressing homelessness.
Councilor Bob Cotterell said he would like to see the city “Engage with faith-based and non-profit organizations regarding needs of unsheltered people. It would be nice if there was a single source to refer people to for needs associated with challenges encountered by this population.”
Councilor Alison Eggers echoed those sentiments, saying she saw a need for “a non-profit/religious connection to align with how we as a community approach supplies to the unhoused.”
Eggers said that handing out tents and sleeping bags to the homeless, which some area churches are doing, is counter-productive.
Councilor Brian Prawitz advocated for more porta-potties and a sanitation/clothes washing trailer. He also supported a temporary shelter similar to the one County Commissioner Chris Boice set up recently on county-owned land next to the Roseburg Library, and incentives for developers to build affordable housing.
Prawitz also suggested that the city develop an acceptable goal for approaching the unhoused/homeless/addicted: “Compassionate, fair treatment of people dealing with a lack of housing.”
Councilor Ashley Hicks suggested the city waive some fees as a way to entice developers to build more housing. She also advocated for the use of city-owned property on General Avenue “as a temporary alternative shelter with plans to dissolve all fees for permanent supportive housing for seniors and those with disabilities, with veteran preference. Ideally a public and private partnership housing/shelter project.”
At a City Council meeting last Monday, Prawitz reiterated his support for Boice’s temporary shelter, but said that everyone has to follow the rules.
“Government is a slow process,” he said. “It’s easier for one person to go out and do something.”
Prawitz also deflected criticism that the Council wasn’t moving quickly enough in addressing the issue of homelessness.
“I just don’t want to be accused of being inactive or slow or not caring about this, because we do,” he said.
The final goal-setting session is scheduled for Monday at 4 p.m. at the Roseburg Library, 1409 NE Diamond Lake Blvd.