News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Support, concerns on shelter

Members of the public voiced their support for the proposed permanent Cold Weather Shelter during visitor communication at last week’s City Council meeting — as well as concerns about the shelter’s location.

The adjacent property owner to the proposed shelter runs an adult foster care home in a matching building next door. She voiced concerns that the proposed shelter property has no yard, no driveway, and is connected to her building with a paver pathway. She is concerned about having shelter guests who may have mental health, addiction, or criminal issues right next door.

Located directly in front of the property on Tall Fir Court is a preschool full of young children. If any of the shelter guests were identified sex offenders, they would be in violation of their parole by being that close to a facility for children. The changing population of the shelter could increase the possibility of COVID-19 exposure. And lastly, she is concerned about the effect of the shelter on the surrounding families and the neighborhood and property values.

Members of the shelter board spoke in favor of asking for Council support. Sharlene Weed, executive director of Habitat for Humanity, is hopeful that interested parties can sit down and talk about concerns and answer questions. She reminded those present that the issue of houselessness is a big and growing problem that all must grapple with. According to latest figures, 66 camps containing 200 people are on USFS land.

Evelyn Belotti-Bush, Cold Weather Shelter co-chair, thanked Council for the $1,500 community grant recently awarded to the shelter. She believes that using churches as shelter facilities is only a Band-Aid on the issue of houselessness.

She said, “We need a more permanent solution.”

In pursuit of funds through the American Rescue Plan Act, the shelter board has requested a letter of support from the City Council. Such funds would open “a building that would provide more than just shelter. It would be a safe place to go to take care of a number of needs in order to get better prepared to transition into permanent housing, get a job, and receive needed social services. We need a meeting with you (the City Council) to answer questions and concerns prior to the joint meeting of the Council and the Board of County Commissioners on October 13.”

Houselessness advocate Mandy Seeley, who has lived in Sisters for six years, three of those in the forest, urged the City Council to “do the right thing for all your citizens.”

Twenty-two-year Sisters resident Betty Shuler urged the Council “to dig in and find your empathy. Please reconsider your decision and provide a letter of support. It is time to come together to do really important work, to unify and build. The right thing is to take advantage of the money and the opportunity. You can change your mind.”

See related story, at left.


Reader Comments(0)