News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

City wants more details on shelter

The Sisters Cold Weather Shelter has asked the Deschutes County Board of Commissioners for $1 million dollars in American Rescue Plan Act funds to enable their purchase of a former adult foster home on Tall Fir Court. They have requested a letter of support for that money ask from the Sisters City Council.

Council members have indicated they don’t have enough information on the details of the proposed facility to write a letter of support.

Councilor Gary Ross said, “I would like to see a written document outlining the shelter’s plan of operation, including contingency plans.” He also warned of some possible red flags in the House Bill 2006 relating to emergency shelter. It requires local government to allow siting of qualifying emergency shelters by qualifying entities, notwithstanding land-use laws and regulations.

In general, councilors thought the shelter board was applying for a very large sum of money with too many questions left unanswered.

Councilor Jennifer Letz reiterated that point when she told The Nugget, “Councilor Ross and I toured the proposed shelter last week. We were all able to share our viewpoints. I think there was a misconception about our not sending a letter of support. We didn’t permanently deny their request. We need more information. We need to vet projects before we can support them.”

Letz would like to see a sit-down with all the players involved – the shelter board, some City Councilors, some City staff, representatives of the County, the U.S. Forest Service, and others who work with the houseless population such as the Sisters School District and Family Access Network. She doesn’t see much value in a formal, public City Council/shelter board meeting before a number of issues are discussed and hammered out.

“Sisters is a small municipality with a small staff,” Letz said. “We need the County involved. They have the staff and expertise that Sisters lacks.”

An email invitation to tour the proposed shelter building was sent to councilors with a short lead time. Letz was out of town and upon her return asked if she and another councilor could tour the facility.

Letz shared that the facility is intriguing with both advantages and disadvantages as a shelter.

She went on, “I appreciate their enthusiasm. It is a unique property, and I don’t fault them, but they need to get their ducks in a row. We have had scant communication and have only received bits and pieces of information.”

Letz believes that the shelter board is feeling the pressure of the approaching winter, with only two churches committed to hosting the shelter for a month each. She wonders if the shelter board might see the Tall Fir Court property as a default “go-to” even if it isn’t a great fit. Letz’s bottom line is she “needs to see a more fleshed out plan.” She is hopeful the shelter board will convene a work session(s) of all interested parties.

 

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