The Prineville City Planning Commission approved a new men's emergency homeless shelter on a Madras Highway property Tuesday evening.
The decision came after City Senior Planner Josh Smith laid out some additional conditions and changes required of the facility to account for complaints and concerns raised during an initial public hearing on the shelter two weeks earlier.
The shelter will be located at 970 and 980 NW Madras Highway and is intended to provide homeless men a place to stay during colder nights during the fall or winter months. The facility will be operated by Redemption House Ministries, an organization that needed to find a new location for its Regeneration House after Crook County officials decided to build a jail on the site of their Northeast Second Street shelter.
After vacating the Second Street location in early February, Redemption House Ministries was allowed to shelter men at St. Andrew's Episcopal Church through April. Since May, no men's shelter has operated in Prineville.
Former Crook County Commissioner Ken Fahlgren and staff from St. Vincent de Paul of Crook County joined Redemption House in efforts to secure a new shelter location, resulting in Fahlgren finding two vacant lots on Madras Highway as well as a 24-by-60-foot manufactured module.
The City Planning Commission took several hours of testimony during a July 18 meeting, where residents raised several concerns about the facility and its location. Issues addressed included the potential for increased crime in the area, loitering or trespassing on or near the shelter property, wastewater management, and overall appearance of the facility.
Tuesday evening, Smith gave a staff report outlining changes and additional conditions intended to address and mitigate concerns raised by residents. Regarding the potential for more crime near the shelter, Smith noted that little can be done from a land-use standpoint to prevent crime.
"It is really unknown whether (the shelter) will help or hurt the situation," he added.
To address the potential for loitering or trespassing, Smith said that land-use provisions can mitigate such activity on the property itself, but not off site.
"There is no way to prevent them from doing that unless they are committing a crime," he said of off-site activity.
However, he noted that the applicants will be required to build a 6-foot-tall cedar fence around the back and two sides of the shelter property as well as a 4-foot-tall fence with a gate on the front portion.
"The feeling is it would create a better visual appearance as well as a barrier to prevent loitering," Smith said of the requirement.
Also addressing the facility's appearance, Smith noted that shelter operators will be asked to landscape the property, which is already designed to look like a standard home, to improve the aesthetics of the facility as much as possible.
To account for concerns about wastewater management, Smith said the shelter site must either have an approved septic system or connect to the city sewer system.
Planning Commissioner Kim Kambak requested that the added conditions include a requirement to post the phone number for the shelter on the front gate in the event neighbors or residents want to issue complaints or raise concerns, as well as the shelter's hours of operation. The shelter will open its doors each evening at 5 p.m., close them by 10 p.m., and reopen them at 6 a.m. when occupants will be asked to leave for the day.
Regarding potential complaints or issues that might arise at the shelter, Smith told commissioners that the Prineville Police Department intends to change the dynamics between shelter staff and the local code enforcement officer.
"Instead of calls coming in and responding, what they are trying to do — especially with facilities like this — is they want (the code officer) to be in constant contact with (the shelter)," Smith said, explaining that such a system would create a more proactive response to problems as opposed to a reactive one.
The Planning Commission approved the facility in a 4-1 vote, with Commissioner Corey Engstrom voting against the proposed shelter.
"I am thankful that the City Planning Committee has granted us the conditional use permit to help us as we reopen the Regeneration House," said Greg Sanders, executive director of Redemption House Ministries. "Our next challenge is to move the building we were given to the property and have it up and running before it gets cold."