In the community

Malheur County set to get homeless aid

Over $1 million allocated by lawmakers to address homelessness is headed for Malheur County.

Gov. Tina Kotek announced Tuesday, Sept. 12, that 26 rural counties will receive $26 million as part of House Bill 5019, which set aside $200 million to combat homelessness.

Malheur County was among 26 others that submitted plans showing what they would do with extra money. The funding is expected to pay for 100 new shelter beds and get 450 households into stable living situations by June 2025 in the 26 rural counties, according to Kotek’s Tuesday press release.

Kristy Rodriguez, executive director of the Housing Authority of Malheur and Harney Counties, the local agency that received the allocation, said Thursday, Sept. 14, that $200,000 would go to Harney and over $1 million would go to Malheur County. The $26 million was divided between the counties based on the applications and a formula developed by the Oregon Housing and Community Services Department, according to Rodriguez.

In Malheur County, the formula was based off 2022 data developed by the state housing development department, 169 people are experiencing homelessness in the county. The housing authority is tasked by the state to house 34 of them with the funds by June 2025, according to Rodriguez.

Rodriguez said the housing authority intends to hire additional outreach staff to work with all cities in the county that have implemented homeless camping ordinances, including Ontario, Nyssa and Adrian.

Rodriguez said the goal of the outreach staff will be to get those experiencing homelessness into “rapid rehousing.” That process identifies people struggling with homelessness and gets them shelter within 24 hours by removing barriers and collaborating with cities and other local agencies.

Rodriguez said the housing authority would also couple its plan with the 17-unit property in Ontario. It plans to turn into transitional housing for the county’s homeless, which is slated to open in January or February. Another portion of the funding, she said, would provide supplies at the encampment sites within cities, such as hygiene products, sleeping bags and laundry.

Rodriguez said it’s encouraging to see dollars from the state to address homelessness in eastern Oregon. However, she said, it is not enough. The county still needs more resources for mental health, crisis and respite centers for people struggling with homelessness, she said.

“I appreciate the fact that Malheur County is now starting to be seen on the eastern Oregon side of the state, she said. “Rather than seeing multiple awards of funding go towards urban areas, we’re starting to see some funding starting to roll into rural counties as well, which is exciting.”

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