SEASIDE — Helping Hands Reentry Outreach Centers and the city of Seaside will collaborate on a federal grant application to help the nonprofit organization build or purchase a new facility for the homeless in Seaside.
“We’re outgrowing our facility we’ve had for the past 14 years,” said Alan Evans, the executive director of Helping Hands. “We’re at full capacity with waiting lists, and it’s going to get worse before it gets better.”
The Seaside City Council voted unanimously this month to be the sponsoring agency for Helping Hands on a community development block grant, a program run by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The block grant program provides annual grants on a formula basis to local governments and states. Nonprofit agencies cannot host the grants themselves and must be backed by a government entity, which is why Helping Hands asked for the city’s support, Evans said.
“Homelessness is an issue that should be dealt with on a level that our city is involved in it, our county is involved in it,” he said. “The resources need to be provided by nonprofits and local government together because the responsibility is ours as a community.”
Helping Hands is seeking to either purchase or build a new facility to use for housing individuals in the organization’s reentry program.
In the first three quarters of this year, the organization served more than 400 individual clients in Clatsop, Yamhill and Lincoln counties, with a majority of service taking place in Seaside because of the emergency shelter.
During the City Council meeting, Seaside Mayor Don Larson said he believes the grant will be successful, but urged participating parties to exercise patience. “You just have to understand you’re not going to get it tomorrow, or by the end of the year,” he said.
Helping Hands currently is eyeing two options for the new site. The first is undeveloped Northwest Oregon Housing Authority property on the south end of Seaside near Avamere at Necanicum Village. The second option is a former Coldwell Banker building on South Roosevelt Drive.
“What we have to weigh out right now is, what is the best bang for the buck?” Evans said.
To help answer that question, Helping Hands is forming a team of individuals from different entities with a vested interest in the project — such as Clatsop County, Seaside, law enforcement agencies, the housing authority and others. The team will determine what direction the organization wants to go, craft plans for the new facility, organize a budget and then present the information to the city and share what “will best serve the need,” Evans said. The information will be used for the grant application.
“It’s going to be a lot of work, and the city has to pull off the grant,” he added.
If the grant is successful and property is acquired, the city will own the facility and then lease it to Helping Hands at a rate to be determined.
Helping Hands is also taking its services to Tillamook County. The organization recently acquired a facility in Tillamook to convert into a homeless relief center.
The group is finishing the process to get a conditional-use permit, with the hope “to have the doors open” in Tillamook as an emergency shelter by Dec. 1, Evans said.
Helping Hands registered the building, which used to be a naval command center during World War II, as a historical structure. The organization is working with the Pioneer Museum to build a memorial for military members stationed there during the war. The goal is to bring the building “back to life” and celebrate its historical aspect, Evans said.
“We are going to make sure the exterior piece of the building tells that story and the hallways in the building tell that story of what it was there for and the importance of history in a community,” he said. “It’s all about forming partnerships and making sure communities understand homelessness.”