HOOD RIVER — Six Rivers Dispute Resolution Center has been selected as one of five community mediation centers from around the nation to participate in the second year of a national pilot project.

The other four selected centers are located in San Francisco, Fresno, Savannah, Ga., and New Orleans. Six Rivers is the only small, rural center participating in the project, which is coordinated by the National Association for Community Mediation and funded by the JAMS Foundation.

As part of this project, each center will work with a local partner organization to bring mediation and conflict resolution services to community-based programs serving young adults (ages 21-35). Six Rivers and Washington Gorge Action Programs will collaborate to better serve young adults facing housing insecurity in Klickitat and Skamania counties. Recent estimates from the census show that approximately 16%, or one in six, of Washington renters are behind on rental payments as of July 2021. This could be approximately 850 renters in Skamania and Klickitat counties.

“The cascading impacts on young adults in our region due to the COVID-19 pandemic, including disruptions to schooling and employment, are contributing to housing instability,” said Andrea Pacheco, Six Rivers’ executive director. “Affordable mediation services are available to assist landlords and tenants who are experiencing strained communication. Additionally, WAGAP provides rental assistance funds to clients. It is our hope that by working together we can both help stabilize housing for young adults while ensuring that landlords receive the rental payments they need to keep their businesses viable.”

Leslie Naramore, WAGAP’s executive director, estimates that around 80 percent of those who contact WAGAP for rental assistance are in the 21-35 age range.

“This program comes at a crucial time,” said Naramore. “After 18 months of being in global pandemic, many renters have fallen behind on their rent through no fault of their own and will need this valuable assistance to get back on their feet. We’re proud to partner with Six Rivers and look forward to ongoing collaboration.”

As part of this national project, Six Rivers will work with the other four centers to create a final project documenting successes and lessons learned that will be shared with community mediation centers across North America.

Gorge residents on both sides of the river who are interested in utilizing mediation for a variety of issues (landlord/tenant, family, workplace, other) may contact Six Rivers at info@6rivers.org, 541-386-1283 x1. Residents of Klickitat and Skamania counties who are interested in WAGAP’s rental assistance programs, and other services, may contact WAGAP at info@wagap.org, 509- 493- 2662.