Prineville area shelter leaders would benefit from more money for facility operations

CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Greg Sanders, executive director of Redemption House Ministries, a faith-based nonprofit serving the homeless, talks to Prineville Mayor Betty Roppe at a grand opening for a new local men's shelter.

Gov. Kate Brown is making a public push to increase homeless emergency funding statewide, however, it is currently unclear how that might benefit Prineville's shelters.

Brown publicly called on legislators recently to approve an additional $5 million in emergency funding for homeless family shelters across the state to help them weather a surging need. Her statement followed a tour of Multnomah County's largest shelter for families experiencing homelessness, the Human Solutions family shelter in East Portland. Brown attended the tour with County Chair Deborah Kafoury and Oregon Housing and Community Services director Margaret Salazar.

"The families here today are struggling to make ends meet and trying to live normal lives under difficult circumstances," Brown said. "It's critical to support them. We have aligned the state, county and city to ensure that everyone has a warm place to go this winter. However, given the difficulties of the upcoming winter months and resources stretched thin, this $5 million is key to getting children and families off the streets and providing them with sustainable and high-quality shelters."

The funds would be available statewide to maintain shelter capacity, house families during their transitions into permanent housing, assist in housing placement and retention, and provide winter shelter across the state.

According to recent data, the state has seen an overall rise in homelessness at a pace that has outstripped even new programs and investments designed to address the crisis in recent years. State, county and city resources are stretched to their capacity to ensure that children and families have a warm and safe place to sleep this winter.

"Certainly, all help can go a long way in alleviating the homeless challenges faced by all of those in our state, and particularly those in Central Oregon," said Mike Wilson, board chair for Redemption House Ministries, a faith-based nonprofit that operates a men's shelter and facility for homeless women and children. "The (housing) vacancy rates are next to zero, and this ripples outward into all areas of the population, including the homeless. So any money the (state) can provide will go a long way in that."

Wilson has not heard how much funding Crook County might receive nor has he been informed what the money would fund. However, he hopes it could pay for operations, since many grants for homeless shelters do not address that need.

"A lot of these operations, ours included, operate on kind of a shoestring," he said. "We are tremendously grateful for the community support we have received, but there are the realities of needing funds to keep the lights on and keep staff paid."

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