The first of two pieces of legislation that could ultimately bring Roseburg $1.5 million for a low barrier homeless shelter was approved by the state House Committee on Housing on Tuesday.
State Rep. Gary Leif, R-Roseburg, worked with Speaker of the House Tina Kotek to secure Roseburg’s proposed shelter a place in the proposed legislation.
"The homeless situation is a growing crisis for our communities that has been really complicated by the recent court rulings. I don't believe anyone wants to see the exponential growth of tent cities that are occurring in the large California cities," Leif said in an email Wednesday.
"This is no longer an issue that can be managed by each community, we need clear state guidelines and support that are aligned with the emerging court rulings," Leif said.
Roseburg City Manager Nikki Messenger also wrote to Kotek on March 1 and requested Roseburg be put on the list to receive funding for a shelter, referred to as a “navigation center” in the legislation.
Messenger wrote that a shelter could be up and running by July 2022 if the legislation is approved.
Two separate bills address the development of navigation centers around the state.
HB 2006 passed through the House Committee on Housing on a unanimous bipartisan vote Tuesday. It lays out the policies around the navigation centers.
Its companion bill, HB 2004, addresses the funding piece of the project, and specific language including the money for Roseburg’s shelter was added as an amendment to that bill. HB 2004 is scheduled for a work session in the House Committee on Housing on Thursday.
Unlike HB 2006, HB 2004 must gain approval of both the House Committee on Housing and the Ways and Means Committee in order to progress to the full House and the Senate for their approval.
Roseburg Homeless Commission Vice Chairperson Mike Fieldman, the former director of the United Community Action Network, also worked with Leif and Kotek to push for the bills.
Fieldman said an earlier version of the bills was introduced in last year’s session but didn’t have a specific allocation for Roseburg. He said the city’s letter was instrumental in convincing Kotek that it would be ready to step in as fiscal agent and work to create a shelter with the funds.
“That really positioned us really well for this session once this bill came up again,” he said.
Fieldman said there’s still a long way to go, and the funding piece could face a bigger challenge. But given the speaker’s commitment to the issue, he said he’s feeling optimistic.
“I’m really very excited about this possibility for us, for our community. The timing was just perfect with all the work the city has done to really lay the foundation for being able to position ourselves for this funding,” he said.
Leif said HB 2006's passage is a "great example of working across the aisle to achieve a solid piece of legislation which is desperately needed."
He said the navigation center has been in the work for years.
"With the homeless community growing in our area this will give us a means to offer the center as an option and at the same time provide needed social services support," Leif said.
He said addiction services, veteran services, social services, medical services and more will be available through the center, which will also provide a place where people can shower, pick up mail, get assistance and begin the process of economic recovery.
Roseburg city officials recently visited Rogue Retreat in Medford, which operates several types of shelter facilities, including the Hope Village tiny home village, the Kelly Shelter and the Urban Campground.
“At this time, the Homeless Commission has recruited the staff at Rogue Retreat to perform an assessment and help guide the City on the next steps to institute a successful program of not just providing a handout, but providing a hand up to our unhoused neighbors,” Messenger said in her letter.
Roseburg Mayor Larry Rich said Tuesday the bills are a major step toward the city achieving its goal of developing a shelter here.
“It’s huge for us because it’s a start in terms of having the funding available,” Rich said. “You can have all the great plans but if you don’t have the funding in place you’re not really going anywhere. So this is big.”
Reporter Scott Carroll contributed to this story.