In December, a 15-bed low-barrier shelter opens on S. Roosevelt Drive, a combined project between Helping Hands Reentry Outreach Centers, the city, Clatsop Community Action and the Sunset Empire Park and Recreation District.
Skyler Archibald, the executive director of the park district, said the goal is to provide a solution for the homeless population, especially during the cold and wet months.
“The district’s position is that this is a good thing for lots of different reasons,” he said at a board meeting last week. “And I’m really happy that they found a great location for it.”
Last winter, a warming center proposed at the former Broadway Middle School — now the Sunset Recreation Center — was rejected by the board.
“It was challenging because I think we all wanted to support this opportunity or support this movement,” he said. “Given the status of the SRC and of the locker room space, we weren’t really comfortable with that as a good fit right now.”
With the approach of another winter, a shelter remained a priority. Archibald said there are over 500 homeless people in the community, and possibly a “significant amount more.”
“It’s hard to know this time of year exactly how many there are because of the transient nature of that lifestyle, unfortunately, so I know that the need will likely exceed what we have available,” he said.
The warming center, which will open in winter months during inclement weather, is fully funded for at least one year. An overnight staff member will be assisted by one or two volunteers to oversee the shelter. Men will be separated from women and children.
The park district will work with the shelter to provide vouchers for shower access. The passes will enable free showers at the Sunset Pool 13 hours a week — 5:45 to 8 a.m. Mondays and Wednesdays and Tuesdays and Thursdays from 5 to 6 p.m. “We try to set those times where the pool isn’t used as heavily and there’s not a lot of children around,” he said.
Shower vouchers can be redeemed at any time.
“We do have some protocols in place for some of the potential challenges that might accompany them as far as their personal belongings or pets,” he said. “I feel really confident in the abilities of staff to interact with that group.”
While a shower program is already in place, Archibald anticipates it will get more use than it has in the past.
Along with the shower program, the park district will work with the other partners to provide a sack lunch or dinner for when people check in. “We’ll be working with our foundation and possibly with our nutrition coordinator to figure out exactly how to do that,” he said.
“Unfortunately, this (homelessness) isn’t a problem that we can solve, but I think providing a hot shower and a towel is something that really will help their health,” Archibald said. “There’s probably going to be some challenging experiences to be had. But with proper training and good protocols in place we’re going to try and embrace and help those folks as much as we can.”