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County Forced to Remove Temporary Homeless Shelter

1:33 AM · Nov 26, 2019

(Douglas County, Oregon) Douglas County announced that they have been forced to remove the temporary respite shelter placed on County property. The shelter will be removed on December 2, 2019. A notice of the impending closure will be placed on the shelter to notify occupants on Monday, November 25, in accordance with state law. The County received mixed reviews of public opinion, but the closure ultimately comes from an impasse with the City of Roseburg. The property where the shelter is located is zoned Commercial and a Conditional Use Permit is required by the City. “There is no clear pathway to get to an approval of a Conditional Use Permit,” said Commissioner Chris Boice, “Despite attempts by the County to find a way to get approval from the City, it became very apparent that there was no pathway to an approval.” Earlier this year, after the Commissioners received numerous formal complaints regarding safety and health concerns from County staff and citizens visiting the Douglas County Courthouse, Commissioner Boice decided to take action. The concerns stemmed from issues with the homeless people that were sleeping, littering and defecating near the entrances of the Courthouse. It is the responsibility of the Commissioners to address those concerns and find a solution that provides protection for County staff, as well as visitors to the Courthouse. Commissioner Boice presented the idea of a permanent shelter to the City and then decided to try the smaller scale pilot project in a parking lot owned by the County near Deer Creek in Roseburg. “We are struggling with the effects of homelessness just like everyone else. There is no one solution that is going to miraculously solve the homeless problem, nor can we just sit back and hope the problem goes away. Something has to be done. By presenting the homeless camp idea to the City of Roseburg and setting up the temporary shelter, the County was hoping to collaborate in the development of real solutions to address the homeless issue,” commented Commissioner Chris Boice. “Instead, we ran into nothing but resistance and the people using the shelter have been continually cited for sleeping in it.” The temporary shelter area included a small covered metal structure, garbage can, picnic table, portable toilet, sharps disposal container and some stipulations for site cleanliness. According to there are over 14,476 homeless people living on the streets in Oregon on any given night. That is 35 homeless for every 10,000 people in the general population. The study also indicated that each year the homeless numbers continue to grow by 10-15%. Right now, only 36% of the communities in Oregon offer or have shelters available for the homeless. The County believes the temporary shelter project did provide some useful insight into the homeless epidemic and also achieved some success. Informal interviews revealed that many of the occupants had jobs and were trying to find secure housing, others were dealing with mental health issues and addiction, and that some simply have chosen to live this lifestyle. It also supported local service and volunteer organizations theories that help is available for people dealing with mental health and addiction problems, but that we lack adequate shelter space and affordable housing options. Noted success with the temporary shelter project: 1) It eliminated complaints from County staff about safety and health concerns. 2) It significantly reduced littering and refuse problems in the area and eliminated the defecation problems. 3) It eliminated needles being found lying along that section of Deer Creek behind the library. 4) It provided shelter, noting 7 to 11 occupants a night, reducing those sleeping in previously noted locations. 5) It encouraged occupants to keep the shelter area clean. 6) It garnered increased awareness about the homeless epidemic in Douglas County. Noted problems with the temporary shelter project: 1) Increased complaints from a single neighboring property owner. 2) Increased accumulation of waste at the shelter site. “There were needles in the sharps container and the port-a-potty was being used. That means that those needles and that feces are in places where they should be instead of places where they shouldn’t. Despite the shelter closure, we will continue to explore ideas to address homelessness, and we stand ready, willing and able to help not only the City of Roseburg, but all of the Cities in Douglas County should they have ideas about how to address the issue,” added Commissioner Boice. (Release by Douglas County Board of Commissioners) (Photo by Ryan Finlay)

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