It looks pretty certain that the City of Roseburg will get $1.5 million from the state to set up a homeless shelter with services to address the issue of the unhoused in the area. Now the question becomes how to get the shelter up and running in a little over a year, which is the time limit provided by the grant.
At the City of Roseburg Homeless Commission meeting on Monday morning, members talked about the various committees that will be needed to tackle the tasks at hand, finding and securing land, deciding what type of shelter and services to provide, finding or creating a nonprofit to run the program, and more.
The first ad hoc committee to be formed will deal with handling the immediate needs of members of the homeless community, such as handing out food, clothing and items to help them shelter in place.
That committee will consist of eight to 12 members who will be selected by City Manager Nikki Messenger. Homeless commission member KC Bolton will chair the committee. This committee, like the others the homeless commission plans to set up, will not be considered a public body, and all of its meetings will be held in private.
Bolton said he hopes to get input from service providers who are already working with homeless individuals.
“We just want to make sure we’re not reinventing the wheel as we go after some of these immediate-need sorts of tasks,” Bolton said.
There could be similar ad hoc committees to deal with other pressing issues, including finding a location for a shelter and a nonprofit to manage it.
The $1.5 million is part of recently passed legislation that includes $18 million for six so-called navigation centers — or shelters with accompanying services — across the state. The others would be in Eugene, Salem, Bend, Medford and McMinnville. The legislation still has to be signed by Gov. Kate Brown.
If approved, the shelters would have to be operational by July 1, 2022, or a city could be in jeopardy of relinquishing some of the funding.
The parameters for how the money can be spent are still trickling in from the state, Messenger said. She said so far from what she can gather, Roseburg will need to have at a minimum a low-barrier shelter with restrooms that is open daily and services for those staying in the shelter.
What form that shelter will take — such as one large building where people sleep in a shared space, individual rooms, tiny homes, or urban camping with tents — will be up to Roseburg officials to determine.
Many of the hurdles that will likely arise are not readily apparent, Messenger said. For example, she talked to officials in Coos Bay who are working on a shelter there and they told her one big expense has been bringing power to each of the tiny housing units they are putting up. The cost to put up fencing and run power to each unit ran about $100,000 alone, Messenger said they told her.
“I think that one thing we’ll need to look at pretty closely is if we’re going to be providing power or not,” she said.
Then there is the issue of providing services to the shelter guests, as the grant requires.
“I really think the most critical step is to find a nonprofit to run it,” said Mayor Larry Rich, who chairs the homeless commission. “Does anyone here have a nonprofit group that could run this? If the answer is no, then it seems were going to have to do a (request for proposal) and see what’s out there.”
Homeless commission members include the heads of four prominent nonprofits in town: KC Bolton, CEO of Aviva Health; Brent Eichman, CEO of Umpqua Health Alliance; Gregory Brigham, CEO of Adapt; and Shaun Pritchard, executive director of Umpqua Community Action Network.
Another board member, Shelley Briggs Loosley, is board chair of the YMCA of Douglas County and former board chair of Casa de Belen.
Messenger said the workload associated with getting a shelter up and running has begun to tax city staff. She said at some point in the not-too-distant future the city will likely want to look at creating a position that focuses entirely on the shelter.
“Ultimately we’re going to need a project manager that owns this thing,” she said.
Mike Fieldman, legislative assistant for Rep. Gary Leif, R-Roseburg, and former director of Umpqua Community Action Network, said he was concerned about the inability of the public to participate in the work of the Homeless Commission or even keep abreast of its efforts.
As an example, Fieldman cited emails sent to the commission that have not been shared with the public.
“How does the public know about these letters?” Fieldman asked. “How do we get comments from the community out to the general public so that they’re aware of what people are saying?”
City Recorder Amy Sowa said she would begin to attach correspondence from the public to the minutes of the homeless commission meetings.
Most commission members Monday agreed that the navigation center should be approached in phases, and the goal of the initial phase should be to satisfy the demands of the grant.
“I have confidence that we can reach the minimum levels required,” Pritchard said. “Then you know what? Then we have a victory.”