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Nazarene Church agrees to manage Crook County’s homeless shelter

Crook County will still own the building, but the church will run the show
The County’s first permanent homeless shelter has seen its share of challenges since its inception a couple of years ago.
   It was initially managed by the County with Lutheran Family Services, a non-profit organization, essentially running the shelter the first fall and winter. The Prineville Police Department took over the first part of 2012, checking people in and out of the temporary shelter, and providing background checks.
   Now, the faith-based community is seeking a way to take over the shelter. The Church of the Nazarene and Pastor Matt Huff are in the early stages of working out the details with the County.
   “I think it was the hope of all of us in the beginning to have a faith-based community to be the driver on it, and not the County or the City. It was they who did the remodel,” said Crook County Commissioner Ken Fahlgren, who played a major role in starting the shelter in late 2010.
   Huff said that since he came to Prineville five-and-a-half years ago, there have been conversations about the need for a shelter. He said that their church became more aware of the need a few years ago, when they temporarily allowed some homeless people to stay at the church.
   “Our insurance only lets us do that for a week at a time,” he added.
   Huff commented that they have had a couple more people sleep at the church in a few situations since then.
   “Those are unique situations, and we don’t always do that,” said Huff.
   The need has continued to come to their doorstep, and he felt it was laid on their hearts to start a mission of sorts. Huff worked at a rescue mission in Kansas City, Mo. when he was going through Seminary and later served as a chaplain.
   Huff met with several organizations in Central Oregon like the Shepherd House to get feedback on how to best accomplish that.
   “I don’t know how big the need is, but there is definitely an ongoing need for a place for people to sleep.”
   He also noted that many people in the local community who have a temporary need for shelter are often put up in a motel for a short duration of time. Huff thought that a shelter would be more effective and cost less if it were available.
   “Now I am just brainstorming what that would look like, and where the need is the most — whether its men, women, or families.”
   One of the things that Huff emphasized that he would like to see with the shelter concept is making it a stepping stone to helping people get back on their feet, rather than just a place to temporarily sleep.
   Fahlgren said that although the County is the owner of the structure, they would like to not necessarily manage the shelter. He explained that they are watching the separation of church and state carefully, and making sure that the guidelines are followed.
   He explained that a ministry within the shelter would cross the line, and the legal points of the issue are being followed by both parties.
   “They will have full management of that building — that is my hope and my goal,” said Falhgren.
   He added that he would like to see the church use the City of Prineville Police and Crook County Sheriff’s Office for background checks to ensure safety for the shelter.
    “It’s a little bit early for us to have all the answers,” explained Fahlgren. “It’s something our community needs, and it’s something we are very happy to facilitate and make more use of the resources we have.”