Oak Lodge does not have 'neighborhood' access to Clackamas County Social Services

With winter approaching and, the Oak Lodge/Gladstone Library issue more or less resolved, the Clackamas County Board of Commissioners and three local Community Planning Organizations might be able to concentrate on a vital concern this community continues to face. I've been aware of it for some time, but until it became a personal issue, I had not realized it as being so critical to the health and welfare of so many residents of this community.

When the Concord School facility became available, it was considered for many uses, not the least of which was as a center for family social services, a Boys and Girls Club, and yes, a library. Many other ideas were considered at the time. Several members of the Concord Project toured the social services facility in Gladstone, as well as the Family Services facility at the old Wichita School on King Road in Milwaukie operated by the North Clackamas School District. I also contacted the Boys and Girls Club of Portland and arranged a tour of the Concord facility for them. Happily they eventually found a home at the site of the original Oak Grove Elementary School. While not ideal, it is working for them, but not without a few challenges. The facility does not have air conditioning, which caused closures during our long hot summer.

In getting back to the matter at hand, Oak Lodge does not have "neighborhood" access to County Social Services. This was one of my initial concerns in terms of acquiring the Concord School property. In the interim, the Parks and Recreation Department got involved and what seemed to be a viable resolution to the issue has become yet another quagmire, similar to what Oak Lodge residents faced with the library. In the interim, I, along with other locals have invested a great deal of time and energy assisting in the formation of the Oak Grove/Jennings Lodge Neighborhood Livability Project. It started out as a community policing coalition, but has grown into a thriving community organization dealing with law enforcement, code compliance, drugs, drug/flop houses, crime, and other concerns in the Oak Lodge area, among them the lack of county social services.

As a longtime resident on a fixed income, I've found it necessary to take advantage of some of the county services. While Clackamas County personnel have been extremely helpful, I have to drive all the way to "Red Soils" up on the hill in Oregon City to meet with them. The point is that I can drive, or have friends take me up the hill to Red Soils. There are many locals who do not have that luxury. It takes two bus rides on TriMet to get there. Many who need help may not even have enough money for bus fare. We have many single parents, elderly residents who are wheelchair bound. Some have mental health issues, and a growing number of homeless people. Some barely have the means to pay rent or buy food for their families. These services are vital to the health and well being of all our residents. Drug addiction including heroin and opioids is becoming more prevalent. Regardless of the circumstances, they all deserve the ability to have adequate access to ALL county social services.

If Concord School is not a possibility, there are vacant spaces in nearly every strip mall on McLoughlin Boulevard. Although, not a favorite idea, would be one or more converted motor homes to bring these services closer until more permanent facilities can be established.

Sometimes, I think the Board of County Commissioners need to be reminded that they are elected to be the "caretakers" of Clackamas County, every square mile. They need to find a way to make vital services more accessible to the residents of Oak Lodge, sooner than later.

G. F. "Gary" Blair is a resident of Oak Grove.

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