From February 7 through July 8, 2019, the Homelessness Task Force reviewed services to the homeless community, and discussed issues relating to the impact of homelessness on both private and public properties.
The Task Force spent the first meetings focusing on potential suggestions on steps that could be taken as a Greater Newport community to address the impacts of homelessness. Each of these suggestions were reviewed over the course of the meetings, resulting in fifteen items that had a majority consensus.
One of the primary recommendations from the Task Force is the need for a standing non-governmental group consisting of social agencies, law enforcement, the interfaith community, and other groups, to coordinate the response to homelessness in the Greater Newport area. The information sharing from the Task Force was valuable in gaining a more comprehensive idea of what services were being offered, what services were not offered, and areas in which overlap of services could be reoriented in order to be more effective.
The City Council appointed the following members to the Task Force based on Resolution No. 3829, including: Traci Flowers, representing Grace Wins Shelter; Lola Jones, representing Samaritan House; Luke Frechette, representing the faith-based community; Wayne Belmont, appointed by the Lincoln County Board of Commissioners, and representing Lincoln County; Curtis Landers, representing the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Department; Kelly Morris, representing Jonah’s Art; Alexis Shrewsbury, representing the Lincoln County School District; Pegge McGuire, representing the Community Services Consortium; Spencer Nebel, City Manager; Jason Malloy, Police Chief; Jovita Ballentine, Community Services Officer; Rob Murphy, Fire Chief; Derrick Tokos, Community Development Director; Jim Protiva, former Parks and Recreation Director; Patti Ferry, representing the Greater Newport Chamber of Commerce; Nancy Mitchell, representing Food Share of Lincoln County; Blair Bobier, from Legal Aid, representing City Center businesses; Steve Beck, business owner, also representing the City Center businesses; Tracy Cummings, representing My Sister’s Place; Ryan Parker, representing Oregon State Parks; at-large members – Richard Beemer, Gail McGreenery, Stacy Fischer, and Linda Gilhuly; and Council Liaison Dietmar Goebel and Council Alternate Liaison, Cynthia Jacobi. There were several positions included in the resolution that were not filled, and those include: representatives from Nye Beach and Bayfront business owners; Samaritan Pacific Hospital or the Health District; and the Oregon Coast Community College. Most appointees participated in all meetings of the Task Force.
In addition to appointees, there was a core group of interested individuals who attended the majority of the meetings and provided input on various issues. These people include: Cyndi Karp; Betty Kamikawa; Alice Shinn; Randy Turrill; Joe Baxter; and Gary Lahman.
The first five of the Task Force's recommendations follow:
1. Placement of portable toilets in identified areas of the city, including Grace Wins Haven. The City Council has considered and approved this recommendation. Staff has drafted an agreement that is currently under review by Grace Wins Haven, Inc., a location that was identified by the Task Force for placement of a portable toilet. Other location(s) are currently under discussion.
2. Consider purchase of a portable shower facility that could be transported to various locations if needed. It was reported at the July 8, 2019 Task Force meeting that Grace Wins Haven, Inc., has acquired a shower van. Representatives of Grace Wins Haven, Inc., expressed a need for financial support for this asset, particularly, a reduction in the cost of water used by the shower van.
3. Explore the future installation of the Portland Loos in key locations throughout the community. The Portland Loo has been designed to allow for 24 hour use of bathroom facilities. The City could explore the use of these type of structures when new restrooms are constructed.
4. Coordinate the creation of a standing non-government group consisting of social agencies, law enforcement, interfaith community, and other groups to coordinate the response to homelessness in the Greater Newport Area. Of all the recommendations, this was deemed one of the most important by the Task Force, as a permanent, standing, NGO could bring to fruition those priorities identified by the Task Force, and deal with new priorities as they arose. The group, as conceived, would be an NGO that included social service agencies, law enforcement, faith-based community, and others providing services to the homeless population. The creation of this NGO would likely have to be spearheaded by the city, although, as envisioned, the city would simply be a member of the group, rather than the coordinator/driver.
5. Consider creating a program in which homeless individuals could be utilized to help clean up litter and trash in return for financial assistance. This would require some level of supervision. The work could be done in exchange for services (as Grace Winds Haven is currently doing), or participants could be paid a minimum wage by a participating organization. This would provide both a community benefit, and a benefit to the individuals participating in the cleanup. This is a program that could be coordinated by a standing NGO if one was ultimately created.
Information from: The City Of Newport