Concerns about new homeless shelter in Sisters arise
Last updated 7/18/2023 at 10:30am
The planned emergency shelter at 192 W. Barclay Dr. is of apparent concern to some in the community. Mayor Michael Preedin tells The Nugget that he has received a large number of calls regarding the location and use of the commercial property, a 6,000-square-foot, two-story structure.
Much of the curiosity revolves around zoning and permitting.
City Planning Director Scott Woodford said, “It will all be driven by HB2006. The legislation overrides any other consideration for permitting.”
Woodford’s department only received the application within the last 10 days.
“We will need some time to evaluate it and understand the full implications in relationship to HB2006,” he explained.
HB2006, passed in May of 2021 by the Oregon legislature, seeks to establish the parameters for emergency shelter. In summary, the bill: defines “emergency shelter,” and requires local governments to allow siting of qualifying emergency shelters by qualifying entities, notwithstanding land use laws and regulations. The act states that HB2006 Section 3 requirements sunset July 1, 2022. It is, so far, unclear how that might impact the establishment of the shelter.
Under the act cities must approve an emergency shelter for operation on any property if the emergency shelter:
• Includes sleeping and restroom facilities, complies with applicable building codes, is located within an urban growth boundary or in a rural residential zone.
• Will not result in a new building that is sited within an area designated under a statewide land use planning goal relating to natural disasters and hazards (e.g. flood plains or mapped environmental health hazards) unless the development complies with regulations directly related to the hazard.
• Has adequate transportation access to commercial and medical services; and will not pose any unreasonable risk to public health or safety.
To qualify, an emergency shelter must be operated by:
• A local government; or an organization with at least two years’ experience operating an emergency shelter using best practices that is: a housing authority, a religious corporation, a public benefit corporation whose charitable purpose includes the support of homeless individuals and that has been recognized as exempt from income tax under section 501(a) of the Internal Revenue Code on or before January 1, 2018; or a nonprofit corporation partnering with any of those entities.
The Barclay shelter will be owned and managed by Sisters Cold Weather Shelter, who meet the test of eligibility, and is planned to accommodate 12-24 in a dormitory-style setting. It is not temporary or transitional housing as is being mischaracterized, advocates say. It is an emergency shelter. In Sisters that is essentially an emergency created by severe weather, although a wildfire or some other catastrophic event would create such an emergency use.
Woodford may have his work cut out for him, as the bill appears to contain some ambiguity or contradictions, mostly dealing with timing and sunsetting. No opposition to the application has yet surfaced and the applicants believe its location, away from schools and residential areas, should allay any concerns.
In 2017, the Sisters Cold Weather Shelter began offering an emergency warming shelter during the cold weather months of November through March. In the early years local churches were the primary locations for the shelters, but COVID disrupted the program. However its board has persisted in seeking solutions to the chronic issue of homelessness.
Current estimates are that approximately 100 persons in Sisters meet the definition of homeless. Many live in the forest within a mile of the Barclay location.