Despite reservations, Oregon City approves shower cart
After expressing reservations about the plan, Oregon City commissioners voted unanimously Aug. 5 to allow a temporary shower trailer at Milner Veterinary Hospital.
City officials will allow homeless people to use the showers on three Sundays, Aug. 9 and 23 and Sept. 6, in the parking lot at 1034 Molalla Ave., Oregon City. Commissioners will discuss an extention of the temporary permit on Sept. 16.
Clackamas County Disaster Management Director Nancy Bush said the shower cart is successfully operating at Clackamas Service Center on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays; in Molalla on Mondays; and at GracePointe Church in Milwaukie on the second Monday of the month.
"Operation of the shower cart includes providing shampoo, soap, towels, clean underwear, and socks and undershirts so folks can leave the shower cart clean and hopeful," Bush said.
But city commissioners were skeptical that the Molalla Avenue shower cart would be successful, given the failure of a free shower trailer on county property at 902 Abernethy Road. The cart opened for two weeks without a single user, despite its location near Father's Heart Street Ministry, and near homeless encampments in Clackamette Park and Newell Creek Canyon.
Commissioner Denyse McGriff said she sees homeless people on an almost daily basis in the Abernethy area, so the county probably wasn't able to reach them.
"I'm disappointed that there wasn't the advertising and outreach that was needed for the Abernethy site," McGriff said.
Bush said that a location near the top of the hill in Oregon City would be better, due to its proximity to other services, and many homeless people walk up and down Molalla Avenue.
"We throw a dart and we try a location, and I honestly feel we could do a better job with administration and site selection," said City Commissioner Frank O'Donnell. "I'm very serious about engaging the neighborhood before we throw any sort of service in their area."
O'Donnell echoed the concerns of other city officials frustrated with the county for circumventing any communication with neighbors.
McGriff asked, "If you've been working on this for months, why did you not reach out to the Barclay Hills Neighborhood Association to make them aware of what was going on?"
Barclay Hills Neighborhood Chair Karla Laws said she was "very disappointed" with the county for not cooperating with the neighborhood association.
Bush said efforts to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 have resulted in the closure of most points of access to soap and water for people who are living unhoused, creating a secondary health crisis: an increase in hair and body lice, scabies and infections.
"Regular access to showers and handwashing produces improved health outcomes, as has already been seen by volunteers and experienced by neighbors in places where the shower cart already is operating," Bush said.
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