New application submitted for shelter

 

Last updated 8/22/2023 at 9:59am



The Sisters Cold Weather Shelter (SCWS) board has reapplied for the emergency shelter proposed by the board to the City of Sisters initially on June 27. The new application is effective starting August 15.

A local nonprofit organization, SCWS advocates for the houseless community. The organization was awarded funding from the State through the Central Oregon Intergovernmental Council (COIC) to purchase and operate a shelter at a permanent location within Sisters.

The board held a conference with COIC and invited City Manager Jordan Wheeler and Community Development Director Scott Woodford. Representatives from Salem were also present to help clear up some of the context in which the house bill legislation regarding emergency shelters was written.

Initially, the application for the shelter was made under Oregon House Bill 2006, which required certain specifications that the applicant must meet for their application to be approved. One of the requirements was that the applicant needed to be operating as a nonprofit for over five years. If they had not been operative for five years, they needed to prove collaboration with another nonprofit entity. The SCWS had not reached that five-year mark.

Luis Blanchard, SCWS board president, spoke to The Nugget about the decision to reapply under a different house bill, HB3395.

“In that conference conversation, there was some discussion in how [HB2006] was written. Just to make that application cleaner, we were close to our three years that new HB3395 qualifies us for; let’s make it clean for the City and all of us,” said Blanchard.

According to the application documents, an IRS letter to SCWS states their “effective date of exemption” as August 12, 2020, putting them just at the three-year mark for the qualification of operating as a 501(c)(3) under HB3395.

However, there remains some question as to what should be considered the determining date as it pertains to SCWS as a “qualified operator” for the shelter — the August 12, 2020 date, or January 22, 2021, the date the letter confirming nonprofit tax exemption was issued.

The Nugget sought clarification from the City of Sisters as to which date the City is considering determinative.

“The City considers the effective date of their IRS exemption to be August 12, 2020 based on the letter from the IRS dated January 22, 2021 that notes the effective date of the exemption to be August 12, 2020,” City Manger Jordan Wheeler reported. “However, the City’s legal counsel has cautioned that the language … is somewhat ambiguous on which date is to be used, and that may have to be resolved by the courts in the future.”

Wheeler stated that “the decision to withdraw the original application and reapply was the sole decision of the applicant. City staff originally determined that the original application did not comply with Section 3 (2)(b)(c) of House Bill 2006, upon which the applicant informed the City of HB 3395 that updated HB2006 and reduced the eligibility requirements pertaining to IRS exemption status to three years from the date of application. 

“Since they were close to meeting that date, the applicant inquired if they could modify or withdraw their application to account for the changed dates and staff informed them that there was no restriction on withdrawing and reapplying under HB 2006 or HB3395 to comply with that new requirement.”

HB3395 details many different elements to shelters and affordable housing, but the specifications when it comes to applications are not much different from HB2006.

According to Blanchard, the SCWS board felt reapplying was a way to clean up the decision-making process in the application for everyone involved, and cut out the vagueness of the HB2006 requirements for a shelter. The information on the rest of the application is consistent with the former application, meaning no new information must be reviewed.

According to HB3395: “A local government shall approve an application for the development or use of land for an emergency shelter, as defined in [section 2 of this 2021 Act] ORS 197.782, on any property, notwithstanding this chapter or any statewide [plan] land use planning goal, rule of the Land Conservation and Development Commission or local land use regulation, zoning ordinance, regional framework plan, functional plan or comprehensive plan, if the emergency shelter...Includes sleeping and restroom facilities for clients; Will comply with applicable building codes...

“The approval or denial of an emergency shelter under this section may be made without a hearing. Whether or not a hearing is held, the approval or denial is not a land use decision ...”

The City’s process for approval is not affected by the reapplication. The decision will be made by Sisters City staff, based on the requirements laid out in the legislation; if SCWS meets all of the necessary requirements, their application will be approved.

“We are still in the process of reviewing the resubmitted application, and we continue to receive and review public comments,” said Wheeler.

 
 

Reader Comments(1)

Greg writes:

The re-application was made because SCWS could not find a qualified Partner (i.e. Shepard House) with five plus years documented experience in this field who would co-sign for SCWS. When the bar was lowered by the State is when SCWS reapplied, and even then their ruling date by IRS has them 3 months shy of 3 years.

 
 
 

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