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Clackamas County coalition now extending homelessness prevention services outside Oregon City

The Oregon City Homeless Solutions Coalition has a new name to reflect its influence countywide.

Now called the Homeless Solutions Coalition of Clackamas County, the group first started meeting in 2016.

Oregon City Police Officer Mike DayCity Commissioner Nancy Ide, who serves as a leader of the group, had been impressed with how the grassroots effort has blossomed in the past 18 months. Ide described the process by which the name change came about at a May 22 meeting of the coalition.

"Our reach had gone beyond the Oregon City borders," Ide said. "To remain inclusive and not turn people away from services we renamed the group."

Lynne Deshler, coordinator of the county's biennial homeless count, has been hired as a part-time administrator for the Homeless Solutions Coalition. She will work five hours a week and be paid by Clackamas County. The group recently put in a grant through the Meyer Memorial Trust to hire an executive director, and word should come back in November about that request.

Angela Trimble, director of homeless intervention at Northwest Housing Alternatives, spoke at the May 22 meeting attended by more than 50 people. NW Housing Alternatives' Annie Ross House family shelter is in transition, while a fire has largely decommissioned the Clackamas Service Center.

Those events, along with rapidly rising housing costs in Clackamas County, led the county last November to declare an emergency to divert county funds to address the homeless crisis. County commissioners have passed an emergency ordinance to allow homeless people to sleep in temporary shelters at churches that allow the practice, but churches in Oregon City currently do not have this option. Ide encouraged Oregon City to pass a special ordinance that would allow homeless people in church parking lots in the city.

Momentum continues for programs

OCPD Officer Mike Day recently was awarded an over $26,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to be used for housing security for veterans, as well as a $50,000 grant from Clackamas County for rapid rehousing services for citizens homeless system diversion and homelessness prevention.

The Oregon City Rotary Club gave Day's program leftover funds that had been donated to assist victims of the Newell Creek Canyon slide. OC Women's Club and Love INC have provided cash donations to the OCPD homeless liaison program. The Growler Run hosted a charity brunch to raise money for Day's program, and Day himself flipped pancakes for his charity work.

Day said that the next major achievement will be for neighboring police agencies to hire homeless liaison officers so that they can work more seamlessly with the homeless population that is often having to move between neighboring jurisdictions.

"I look forward to the day when I can call my counterpart in the Milwaukie Police Department or the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office," Day said.

Hillside Christian Pastor Dave Morris, a member of the coalition's warming-center subgroup, celebrated that no homeless people died in the elements since 45-year-old Rachael Renee Edwards was burned to death Nov. 8, 2017, after a fire broke out near her encampment in Abernethy Creek Park in Oregon City. Emergency shelters provided overnight stays 4,380 times last winter in Clackamas County.

"There were no deaths during this warming shelter season," Morris said.

Next month the Homeless Coalition group will meet in Milwaukie to develop a resolution of support from City Council to become officially recognized at a June 19 work session. The coalition is expected to continue discussing a "service mall" concept to open a physical space in Clackamas County that would provide wrap-around services to local homeless people at its 2 p.m. meeting Sept. 24 at the Providence Willamette Falls Community Center.

County to give grants for homeless

Clackamas County's Social Services Division will provide funding for homeless system diversion, homelessness prevention, and rapid re-housing services to local unaccompanied youth under age 25 and youth who are unhoused or at high risk of homelessness.

Approximately $92,000 will be distributed. Applicants interested in being considered for funding are encouraged to apply electronically by 5 p.m. on June 11 at clackamas.us/grants.

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