Newberg aims to find housing for homeless vets
In the midst of a self-described "housing crisis," Newberg City Manager Joe Hannan is working to ensure a handful of military veterans facing a potential housing loss can find access to new housing.
Hannan said the city knows of five veterans in a trailer park off Illinois Avenue who are facing potential homelessness because the park will likely become home to an apartment building in the coming years.
Working with the Housing Authority of Yamhill County, Hannan said the goal is to help get these veterans – and any other homeless veteran – access to Section 8 certificates.
"There's a significant population (of veterans)," Hannan said, "and we don't know where all of them are." He added that the city believes there are 1,000 veterans in Newberg and Yamhill County numbers top 7,000 veterans.
Along with the Housing Authority and state government, Newberg wants to have access to a list of all the veterans in the city, with the hopes of being able to alert them of all the benefits they are entitled to, Hannan said, adding "A lot of veterans don't know about the benefits available to them."
Mobile homes are some of the most affordable housing in the city, Hannan said, and the occupants can claim ownership of the actual dwelling itself.
So getting them into local apartments, many of which are far more expensive than they can afford at around $1,200 a month, isn't an easy fix. He added that the mobile home park that will eventually make way for apartments, owned by Doug Peterson, caused the City Council to struggle with allowing the change in use, but they decided the housing crisis was too great.
"Anything we can do to improve housing is a good deal," he said.
A number of the trailers in the park are older and cannot realistically be moved, Hannan said, not to mention the fact there is no available space in existing parks. So that leaves a conundrum of where the residents will go.
While the park in question won't close for another five years, he said many residents don't want to move out of a place with cheap rent. When the city found out these five veterans were in the park, Hannan said they decided to look into helping them, although housing is not a primary focus of city government. Eventually, they came across available Section 8 certificates only to the homeless.
"The goal is to get all the veterans their entitled-to services and then work to find them a place," he said.
Hannan said he has reached out to the owners of Chehalem Pointe, a new apartment complex under construction on Villa Road, to foster the idea of bringing the veterans in once the first batch of apartments open up in the winter. The owner was open to the idea, Hannan said.
"You can't do this everyone, this is me and the city trying," he added.
Hannan said he plans on eventually holding a meeting with the veterans at the trailer park to talk about the benefits they are entitled to, not just for Section 8 housing but also medical and mental care, and hopes to eventually open up that type of meeting to the rest of the veterans in the city. For example, he said they want to improve transit for veterans to get to and from medical appointments at the Portland VA Medical Center, or get more localized care brought in.
The hope is to do for all homeless veterans as they intend to with the initial five.
"These are five (veterans) we are specifically after, but we want to help find the names of the other 7,000 (in Yamhill County)," Hannan said.
In his report to city councilors, Hannan said he met with the director of Oregon Department of Veterans Affairs to help make a list of homeless veterans in the city and work to find them help accessing Section 8 housing at the park.
Hannan – who in his report also stated he's working to arrange an October meeting with the Veterans Administration, city staff and Newberg Urgent Care to move to the next step in submitting a request to establish a VA clinic in Newberg – said he also worked with Housing Authority of Yamhill County, a Yamhill County veterans officer and the Newberg mobile home park to schedule a meeting to qualify veterans for housing and other benefits.