The Dalles City Council has declared a local state of emergency regarding the city’s homelessness problems and has authorized the city manager to work towards setting up a temporary shelter program for this upcoming winter.
The city council signed the emergency declaration during a special meeting held Oct. 28, effective immediately, and the declaration will remain in effect until April 1.
“The city is basically providing what I call the infrastructure for this program and then the program itself will not be operated by the city, although we will help in any way we can,” said City Manager Julie Krueger in response to a public comment given at the meeting.
The declaration authorizes Krueger “to coordinate emergency services by working collaboratively with any necessary parties towards providing temporary shelter for the City of The Dalles’ homeless population.”
As of press time, the City of The Dalles is planning to provide land — a flat gravel lot behind the The Dalles Public Works facility on Bargeway Road — for five temporary shelter units allotted to The Dalles under an Emergency Solutions Grant (ESG), and will also provide electricity, portable toilets, a dumpster and on-site sanitation. While the city does not plan to provide running water on site, Kruger said the city is working with St. Vincent De Paul to give patrons access to St. Vincent De Paul’s showers and laundry facilities.
While the city council unanimously approved the resolution, Councilor Rod Runyon expressed concerns for the record about some language that potentially alluded to children being allowed at the shelter, and stressed the importance of establishing rules and regulations for the program. “You have to put out some kind of rules and whatnot and without monitoring, you have chaos,” said Runyon, “so I want to make sure that this works well and takes care of the need as we’ve envisioned.”
Chamber President Lisa Farquharson said that she is concerned about the proposed site’s proximity to the Riverfront Trail, and a representative from Northwest Natural, which has an office neighboring the proposed site on Bargeway Road also expressed concerns about safety on site.
“It’s dark out here, it’s not very populated,” said Community Affairs Manager Tonya Brumley. “… We at NW Natural do recognize the issue and want to be partners and we want to help; however, we also want to keep our own employees safe as well as the assets that are in our facility.” Brumley and Krueger have been working together to address NW Natural’s concerns, and Krueger said that any complaints would be dealt with quickly.
“We want to make sure this is a successful program,” said Krueger.
Up until this point, Councilor Darcy Long-Curtiss has been working in a volunteer capacity to spearhead development of a warming shelter program for The Dalles this winter. While she initially planned to get the program ready and hand it off to somebody else to manage it, no one has stepped forward yet.
“I will get it started but don’t know who will be running it after that,” said Long-Curtiss. “It took so long to get a location that I wasn’t able to provide enough information for anyone to commit to it. I think it will be easier once everything is in place and people see the plan is working.”
Long-Curtiss and Krueger are still working on establishing an operations plan for the program, which will be brought before the city council before it’s implemented.