City won’t support shelter funding request
Last updated 9/7/2021 at Noon
The city government is not supporting the local Cold Weather Shelter’s effort to purchase a house in Sisters. The Sisters City Council will not send a letter of support regarding the Cold Weather Shelter’s request to Deschutes County for $1 million to purchase a building on Tall Fir Court.
A letter from City Manager Cory Misley to the Cold Weather Shelter board last week outlined several reasons why “at this time, the City will not provide a letter of support for this specific request.”
Misley wrote, “To our knowledge there has not been outreach to the neighborhood or a broader community conversation regarding a permanent shelter in Sisters. It is critical that we best understand the needs…of our homeless population and in the almost three years I have been here that question is unanswered. Those answers help us to understand what we need versus what we want and the size, form, and arrangement of how it...is provided.”
Misley noted the “successful, right-sized approach” of the local churches hosting the shelter prior to COVID-19. He indicated also that the City has “not been involved in the development of this application (to the County) and the thought process behind its specifics.”
The City has a “steadfast commitment to supporting and expanding affordable workforce housing in Sisters.” They contributed $300,000 of general fund dollars to the development of the Housing Works 42-unit low-income apartment project known as Ponderosa Heights. Council has created an affordable-housing grant program to encourage builders to build more affordable-housing units in Sisters.
Misley pointed out that the City is constantly forced to decide what to prioritize and where they have responsibilities and/or can have the most impact. He said, “We are working on addressing homelessness from the other end when we are prioritizing expanding affordable workforce housing – it has and is an ongoing City Council goal with many projects supporting each other toward that end.”
Besides the City, others involved in the conversation regarding homelessness in Sisters Country include the U.S. Forest Service, which has responsibility for the thousands of acres of the Deschutes National Forest surrounding Sisters where many of the homeless
The City and Deschutes County Board of Commissioners will be holding a joint meeting in Sisters on October 13, where an update on the homeless situation will be received from the Deschutes County Public Health Department. The City Council hopes to continue the conversation with the County regarding the best allocation of dollars and highest needs, to support the homeless in Sisters Country.
Misley reminded the Cold Weather Shelter board that the County has several years to allocate and spend the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds. He believes this topic is “worthy of a thorough, thoughtful conversation including all partners and our community.”
“They (the County) may have additional resources to provide toward staffing levels or alternate properties in Sisters. We must have a broad, diligent conversation on this issue and varying needs/opportunities,” Misley urged.
Wanting to reply to the Shelter’s request for the letter of support sooner than the next Council workshop, councilors individually voiced their opinions to Misley, who sent the response.
According to Bonnie Rose, Shelter board of directors co-chair, the board met after receiving Misley’s letter.
“As our response, we will be asking the Sisters City Council for a work session to allow us an avenue to provide answers to the City’s stated concerns,” Rose said.
Additionally, they issued the following response:
“Perhaps we, as a board, have not provided the City Council with all the statistics, data, and interaction they required to feel assured that supporting a permanent shelter is in the best interest of the City as a whole.
With their negative response to our request for a letter of support, however, they have provided a more clear outline of the further data and statistics they require to be assured.
We have the data and are prepared to provide answers to their concerns at a work session.
It must be remembered, too, that we are a volunteer board, having worked successfully and diligently in the past with the community at large to save lives by providing comfort, dependable shelter, and meals during winter months.”