Lincoln County plans to open a winter shelter for the first time this year that would provide a safe, supervised overnight place to stay for unhoused people for a full six months, with no temperature or weather condition requirements. The Lincoln County Board of Commissioners has long helped fund the efforts of local organizations operating winter shelter programs that open when the temperatures outside are forecast to drop below a certain threshold.
One problem with that approach is that forecasts are often wrong; and even temperatures higher than the threshold – usually 40 degrees – can pose a danger to people sleeping outside or in a vehicle, especially in the wet, windy conditions on the coast.
Also, local organizations have largely relied on hotel rooms for use as shelter in recent
years, which can be in limited supply depending on the number of visitors to the area.
During late February’s snowstorm, all local hotels were booked due to a large annual
event in Newport. With those shortfalls in mind, Lincoln County Board of Commissioners Chair Kaety Jacobson looked to Health and Human Services Director Jayne Romero, who
previously ran a shelter in Albuquerque, New Mexico, to help develop a solution.
“We know we face a serious crisis of unhoused persons in this county, even greater
than the limited official counts reflect,” Jacobson said. “And our service organizations
have long come to us and said the old approach isn’t working.” At least hundreds of people sleep unsheltered in Lincoln County every night; and among the county’s homeless population, which includes those sleeping outside, in tents, in cars, in hotels and “couch surfing” with friends and family, are at least 700 children.
Romero gave a presentation on the plans during the Wednesday, July 19 commission
meeting. The working plan envisions two shelter facilities, one in Newport and one in Lincoln City, with a full-time program coordinator overseeing both sites. Shelters would be open from
6 p.m. to 7 a.m. Oct. 1 through March 31 and be staffed by part-time workers. Volunteers would help bolster the ranks. The county is currently hiring for the program coordinator, who will be under the supervision of the HHS Director, and it is working with the Housing Authority of Lincoln County to locate shelter sites. Anyone with suggestions for possible sites in Lincoln City or Newport is encouraged to contact the Board of Commissioners Office at (541) 265-
4100 or firstname.lastname@example.org.