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Father's Heart Street Ministry applies for conditional permit in residential area

PMG PHOTO: RAYMOND RENDLEMAN - Homeless people line up recently for services outside of the Father's Heart Street Ministry in Oregon City.Father's Heart Street Ministry (TFH) has applied for a permit for a temporary nighttime warming shelter at the corner of 12th and Washington streets in Oregon City.

TFH has been serving no- and low-income people in the nearby area since the facility opened in 2012, according to TFH Board President Marty Gant of Estacada and the property owner Gary Wheeler of Scappoose.

Gant and Wheeler wrote to city officials that their project will allow TFH "to continue to provide a temporary nighttime emergency warming shelter on the current site when the local temperature is forecast to fall below 33 degrees," including wind chill.

Planning commissioners heard from the applicant and many neighbors at a public hearing on July 12 and decided to continue the hearing until Aug. 9, when they are expected to make a decision. The Planning Commission's decision won't be final, however, and it's likely the controversial decision will be appealed either way to the City Commission for a final decision.

City commissioners set up the reckoning for THF by saying last year would be the final time elected officials would provide an emergency resolution for TFH to operate as an overnight shelter each winter. Oregon City's Planning Department has determined that TFH's day-use shelter is legally non-conforming and grandfathered in through a similar-use determination in 2016.

Jessica Murray, who lives near the shelter, has been organizing nearby residents with a strategic, coordinated response to urge the Oregon City Planning Commission to deny TFH's request. Murray said nearly 90 people so far have signed an electronic petition in opposition to TFH's conditional use permit, mostly residents within a mile of TFH.

"We understand that these services are desperately needed for the unhoused population, and that TFH has good intentions, but they have not taken responsibility for the impact their location, and the way they run their organization, has on the surrounding families," Murray said. "We urge the city and county to compassionately address this issue, with mental health professionals, social workers and addiction resources in a comprehensive way that supports and protects both the residents of our communities and the unhoused people in need."

Murray was among 15 neighbors who signed a statement urging the city to deny TFH's proposed use for not contributing to the character and livability of the McLoughlin historic district.

"The applicant's included Good Neighbor Policy is only one-way and has not been agreed to by the surrounding neighbors," the neighbors wrote.

TFH policies say that using drugs, being on the property before or after hours or loitering in the surrounding areas to the property could jeopardize receiving services. Neighbors say those policies are frequently violated.


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