LINCOLN COUNTY — The county has set aside funding to assist each of the communities within its boundaries with homeless issues.
That was the message shared by Lincoln County Counsel Wayne Belmont during a recent joint work session of the Newport City Council and the Lincoln County Board of Commissioners.
“We’re trying to do some things that really move the needle on this particular issue,” Belmont said. “Lincoln City is a great example. There we’re actually talking about building some units that actually would provide some housing. It’s part of a strategy to contribute some resources on a going-forward basis."
But Belmont also made it clear the main exhibit hall on the grounds of the Lincoln County Commons (fairgrounds), where the Newport warming shelter has been located, will not be available next winter.
“This has always been a temporary solution,” he said.
Newport City Councilor Dietmar Goebel asked Belmont if the county had plans to accommodate the shelter when they rebuild the County Commons. He was told that the county does not.
City Councilor Cynthia Jacobi said, “Not only do we not have a long-term solution, we can not even find a short-term solution, at this point, for next year. This is really a problem in Newport. I think everyone’s aware of that.”
“It’s a problem everywhere,” Belmont noted. “It’s going to take a lot of work ... for people to come together, to figure out what the solutions are.”
When Belmont was asked by Goebel if the county was looking to cities to take on the homeless issue, he said, “I don’t think anyone can do this alone. We’re all in this to try to come up with solutions.”
“And to do it on a continuing basis,” clarified County Commissioner Kaety Jacobson. “I want to make sure that whatever model is used, that it’s sustainable, so we can provide that service and have it be provided continuously.”
Caitlin Kurek, who, along with her husband and dog, is homeless, made an impassioned plea to Newport City Council at its regular meeting on Feb. 18.
“This year has been a devastating year. We have lost six homeless who called Newport their home,” she read from prepared remarks. Kurek solemnly told the stories of those who died.
“Something has to change. How can we, as a community, sit back and watch our community members, friends and family die because of lack of safe places, shelters, affordable housing, more local in-patient treatment programs?”
Kurek concluded, “This is a whole-community issue, and I am begging you to step up to the plate and move quickly on some simple changes: a permanent shelter, legal car camping, safe programs. You are the ones who can help make changes happen to save the lives in your community.”