Molalla citizens voiced their opinions Wednesday on the future use of the citys PAL building.

Peggy Savage

Molalla Pioneer

by: PEGGY SAVAGE - Alice Flintjer, Police Chief Rod Lucich, Molalla City Manager Dan Huff and Councilor Glen Boreth were some of those present at the city's Town hall to discuss proposals for use of the vacant PAL building in MolallaA warming shelter for the homeless in the Molalla River School District was one of several ideas put forth by citizens last Wednesday in a Town Hall discussion on suggested uses for the former PAL building near the skate park.

There must have been about 40 people participating in the discussions, divided into small groups of about eight people per table.

Participants also had the opportunity to vote on the new logo for the city of Molalla, choosing from two options.

Mayor Deborah Rogge said she was happy with the turnout.

“It’s good the community can all participate in decision making in the Town Hall meetings,” Rogge said. “I like to see them take ownership of our town and how their tax money is being spent.”

A Molalla Warming Center

The warming center for the homeless is an idea that has seen a lot of organizational planning, and was presented for discussion by Sherrie Rhodes, a member of a steering committee that also includes Bob Laver, Joni Laver and Jack Matthews and is led by Leota Childress.

Rhodes said the PAL building would be a good site for a warming center because it is centrally located and close to the fire and police stations.

The layout of the PAL building would meet the needs of the warming center, Rhodes said.

The group has already acquired some funding and is working on acquiring more. Clackamas County has grant money to pay for 70 beds throughout the county. The group has applied for funding for 20 beds.

“We are hoping we can put a Molalla Warming Center into the PAL building,” Rhodes said. “It would be a place to get out of the cold when the temperatures dip to 32 degrees Fahrenheit serving a hot meal, breakfast and a sack lunch. The homeless say they will come. That’s always an issue,” Rhodes said.

The police and fire district will always be notified if the center is to be open any given night. Each night the center would be open, the hours would be 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. and it could accept about 15 or 20 people per night. Rhodes said those using the center would be required to sign an agreement. Outside kennels with food and water for dogs would also be provided.

There would be strict rules. Once someone leaves the center, they would not be allowed back in that night. The center would have the right to refuse services to anyone who is drunk, has abuse issues or is considered a danger to themselves or others. The police department has a list of people who would not be provided services.

“But if we turn anyone away, they will be given a sack lunch, and if they don’t have a blanket, they will be given one,” Rhodes said.

Organizers are learning the procedures to make a shelter safe for volunteers. There would be extensive volunteer training and background checks, she said.

“The city council is willing to allow a center to be open an average of 15 to 20 evenings per winter,” Rhodes said. “A group of citizens feel there is a need here, so we found agencies to help facilitate it,” Rhodes said.

The group has already applied to the city for some funding. LOVE, Inc. is talking with them about offering additional assistance.

Staffing would consist of two men and one woman per shift, and weather conditions would dictate which nights the center would be open.

Police Chief Rod Lucich said he liked the idea of such a center being weather-related.

“We’ve struggled with this, trying to help people in homeless situations,” Lucich said.


Shilo Wittrock, who had long been with PAL, and OSU Extension agent Beret Halverson suggested using the center during daytime as a center for GROW Healthy Kids.

“Our overarching goal is to prevent overweight and obesity in rural children,” said Halverson, who is the Food Gardens and Systems program manager for the OSU Extension Family and Community Health Program in Clackamas County. Beret is the county lead on the GROW Healthy Kids and Communities USDA grant.

GROW Healthy Kids and Communities built a walking trail at Molalla Elementary School last year. The group uses evidence-based research, community-engagement methods and tools, and innovative technology to develop strategies that families and communities can use to lead a healthy lifestyle.

GROW is funded through a USDA grant in six rural communities in the county, bringing lots of resources into the community, Halverson said. It is based in Oregon City.

Rhodes is also part of the GROW team, working at the community, family and kid level.

The group at Councilor Glen Boreth’s table talked about sharing space in the building, with GROW using it during the day and the homeless shelter on cold nights.

Chief Lucich mentioned that the city is looking for another meeting place in town, and has its eyes on the PAL building, owned by the city.

“The problem is that we have so many needs for this one building,” Lucich said.

Boreth said the city would likely consider sharing the building with multiple users.

“With everyone working together, this is a great blend,” Boreth said. “The city is not looking to make a profit on this. The city just wants to find the best use possible for that building for the community, as long as the city has a square budget.”

Wittrock said PAL still is functioning as an organization.

“But we don’t’ have funding right now, so we are taking a year’s hiatus,” she said. “But we still have the wrestling program.”

Other ideas

- Use the PAL building as a meeting room for AA or Al-Anon

- As a nonprofit mixed use center, rented out day by day

- At one table, the consensus was the building should remain dedicated to children’s needs, offering such things as a community school classes, movie nights, dance classes, and other events for children

- The consensus for most of those present was that the building be used for multiple organizations.

“Most of us agreed a warming center for the homeless would be a good idea,” one citizen said. “We think the warming center should get priority.”

City councilors said ultimately, the decision will be up to them. The building has a new roof, but still needs work done on the heating system. The building still needs an HVAC system, at a cost of about $8,000 to $10,000.

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