This article was originally published in Columbia Community Connection. You can access the original article here: https://www.columbiacommunityconnection.com/the-dalles/shelter-for-houseless-more-than-doubles-in-td-and-hr?rq=winter%20shelter
In order to meet the need for shelter as winter approaches, Mid Columbia Community Action Council (MCCAC) is preparing for 10,175 shelter bed nights from November through March: more than double the number of shelter bed nights that were available last winter.
As we well know, winters in the Mid-Columbia region can get incredibly cold and icy. This means that the need for housing and shelter increases, and becomes essential for the survival of many individuals and families experiencing houselessness.
“As winter approaches we must ensure that our most vulnerable friends and neighbors have the shelter needed to survive through the harshest months of the year”, says MCCAC executive director, Kenny LaPoint.
Two of the major services MCCAC provides are 1) shelter, from both cold and heat, as well as 2) the support needed to make positive steps toward permanent housing. The agency currently has 34 shelter beds near the Port in The Dalles and 26 shelter beds in Hood River, run by Hood River Shelter Services at its new location on Oak Street.
MCCAC is also providing over 200 hotel/motel room nights per month through partnerships with local hotel and motel owners. These hotel/motel rooms are prioritized for families with children who can’t be served by the shelter system and those with medical conditions that require alternate accommodations. All of this amounts to a total of over 10,000 emergency shelter bed nights, which will serve a critical need in Hood River, Wasco, and Sherman Counties during the 2021-2022 winter months.
This year’s increase in shelter beds has been financed by the $3.1 million Emergency Solutions Grant that MCCAC and its partners received in March 2021, which has paid for shelter beds in both Hood River and The Dalles. And, funding allocated by the Oregon Legislature has enabled MCCAC to purchase 12 additional pallet shelter units in The Dalles earlier this year. The City of The Dalles put in the infrastructure for the Shower Trailer and provided support for MCCAC to operate The Dalles pallet shelter site year-round.
MCCAC is also working with the City of The Dalles and St. Vincent DePaul to establish a winter warming shelter that will operate during extreme weather events.
“While we have increased the number of shelter beds, there is a need to provide emergency response to those still unsheltered,” says Kenny La Point. “We anticipate that this winter warming shelter will be operational around the beginning of December.”
In addition to providing emergency shelter services, MCCAC will soon be opening a Navigation Center in The Dalles. This site will bring long term resources to the community, through culturally appropriate services provided under one roof, in a location where a shelter can be permanently stationed. The City of The Dalles has committed $500,000 of American Rescue Plan Act funding toward the navigation center. Another grant from the Oregon Health Authority will fund a development consultant for the new site. The Navigation Center will help provide the housing placement services, through long-standing relationships with partner agencies committed to the same goal of offering support toward permanent housing.
“The City of The Dalles is proud to support the MCCAC Navigation Center project”, says The Dalles Mayor Rich Mays. “The Center will provide a robust array of services to help address the needs of our houseless community members.”
“MCCAC: A New Era” details four new strategic priorities for the agency, all of which have guided the creation of the Navigation Center. In particular, the Navigation Center would not be possible without community relationships and partner organizations offering their resources (Goal Area 2: Community Partnerships), and it works to coordinate services at shelter and housing sites (Goal Area 3: Housing Stability and Houselessness Services).
By providing emergency shelter beds this winter while planning for the new Navigation Center, MCCAC and its partners are working to end houselessness through both immediate assistance and long term support. Both are critical to address houselessness in the region.