Hermiston City Council Gets Update on Homeless Shelter Project

The Hermiston City Council on Monday got an update on Project Path, the homeless shelter being built on Lind Road between Hermiston and Umatilla.

“We’re creating a project and a service quite literally from the ground up,” Umatilla City Manager David Stockdale told the Hermiston council.

Project PATH (Practical Assistance through Transitional Housing) is a collaborative effort between Umatilla County, the cities of Hermiston, Umatilla, Echo and Stanfield and the local nonprofit Stepping Stones Alliance.

“We have groups that provide great help to people in need, but we don’t have transitional housing and that’s what we’re doing here,” said Stockdale.

Since the groundbreaking in November, the intergovernmental agreement between the county and the participating cities has been signed, as well as a contract with Stepping Stones Alliance.

Stockdale told the council on Monday that the work has focused primarily on administration, setting up how Project PATH will be governed, and what resources are available.

The Project PATH is one of eight pilot projects selected by the state to develop services for the homeless. Each pilot project received $1 million from the state. Stockdale said Stepping Stones Alliance has also received an additional $1.1 million in private and state funds for the project with the possibility of another $1 million coming in the form of a Community Development Block Grant.

Construction of individual huts has begun and three are now complete. The shelter’s sleep center and show units have been purchased with grant funds, said Stockdale.

One of the “stickier things” has been securing transportation to the shelter for the homeless without access to a vehicle. Kayak Public Transportation is a possibility, however, Stockdale said it will take some re-working of Kayak’s routes in order to make it work.

In the meantime, Stockdale said the Umatilla Cab Company is one possible option. Atkinson Staffing can also provide vehicles for shuttle service. Jesalyn Cole, executive director of Stepping Stones Alliance, said the group is working on a grant to purchase its own vehicle, as well as a grant for a cooking unit.

Other hurdles include utilities, which the site does not have. Stockdale said a commercial septic system and an onsite well will be installed. The State Historical Preservation Office is also requiring an onsite cultural resource study.

When completed, Project PATH will have an office space with a common area, shower and meal facilities and, at least initially, 12 individual huts. The facility would also include assistance with basic medical, dental and vision services as well as drug and alcohol counseling. Other services would include transportation to work or school.

Another concern is long-term funding. While there is paid staff, Stockdale said the group is working to recruit volunteers to help out at the shelter.

“This kind of service is dead on arrival with volunteers,” he said.

Hermiston Mayor Dave Drotzmann said he was worried that after initial interest, the number of people volunteering could drop off.

“My thought would be looking at long-term budgeting for an expanded staff rather than be dependent upon volunteers,” said Drotzmann.

Cole said there will be an open house in March in an effort to attract more volunteers.

Another quarterly update will be given to the council in three months.

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