In the community

Homeless meal kitchen will close after state terminates grant for Origins Faith Community

ONTARIO – An Ontario food kitchen that serves up to 125 meals a day to the homeless will close Friday and an outreach program designed to help those struggling with addiction has been discontinued.

Origins Faith Community Church was notified by state officials on Sept. 18 that the state was terminating a grant that helped fund the agency’s addiction services and its food kitchen. The termination was first reported by Oregon Capital Chronicle.

The local addiction services were administered by Origins Faith Community Outreach. The New Hope Kitchen provides the food service for the homeless. Both organizations exist under the umbrella of Origins Faith Community Church.

The state awarded a $616,152 grant to Origins Faith as part of a broader program triggered by Ballot Measure 110. That is the now controversial edict passed by voters in 2020 that decriminalized possession of hard drugs and dedicated a share of the state’s marijuana revenue to treat drug addicts across the state.

Frank Borst, Origins Faith Community Church board member and secretary said Wednesday, Sept. 27, the state ended the grant because his organization could no longer meet the original requirements.

“There is a laundry list of things that any organization needs to be able to provide in terms of services and our challenge has been, particularly with our change in leadership, we were struggling to provide the services the grant requires,” said Borst.

The state grant stipulated that Origins Faith Community use the money for peer counseling services, employment, housing and harm reduction.

An Oregon Health Authority PowerPoint document obtained by the Enterprise asserted that Origins Faith Community was “consistently late in expenditure, data reporting” and those reports were full “of inconsistencies and errors.”

According to the state document, “Origins does not have a primary point of contact and routinely ignores OHA (Oregon Health Authority) requests for information. Taken together, it is unclear to what extent Origins is providing M110 (Measure 110) funded services.”

Borst said the turbulence stemmed from the departure of employees and the board’s subsequent work to untangle the financial problems created delays in reporting.

The termination of the grant raises questions about the quality of the state’s oversight of the millions that have been allocated statewide.

Tim Heider, communications officer with the Oregon Health Authority’s behavioral health division, noted in a Wednesday, Sept. 27, email that organizations that received grants are required to submit quarterly reports on their expenditures.

The state ensures that purchases align with the data reports and that often misunderstandings occur, and the state and organizations are able to resolve discrepancies.

“We have a great organization but it has been really difficult to find staff necessary to fully deliver the Measure 110 program and because of the change in leadership, we were delinquent in sending in some of our reports,” Borst said.

Borst said Origins Faith Community planned to reach out to other local organizations about providing the counseling services on Origins Faith’s behalf to meet the grant requirements.

He said the state rejected that move.

Borst also said another resource for the homeless – the tiny house project – is in jeopardy.

Community in Action pays for 16 tiny houses next to Origins Faith Community at 312 N.W. 2nd St. Origins Faith Community manages the homeless housing project. Borst said Community in Action has not received funding from the state for the homes.

Heider said that the state will request Origins Faith Community Church return any unspent funds.  He also said the state would ask the organizations to review past expenditures to determine if they were allowed under the grant. Any expenses not allowed would need to be paid back, according to Heider. 

Origins, according to the state health agency’s database, has so far received $513,640.

Three organizations in Malheur County have received grants under Measure 110, totaling $1.5 million. The Eastern Oregon Center for Independent Living, a resource and advocacy center for those with disabilities, has received $412 429 of the $516,536 awarded for harm reduction intervention and Lifeways, an addiction treatment center in Ontario, was awarded $581,842 of $698,210 grant for a suite of addiction services, including peer support, housing services and drug treatment, among others, according to the state’s database.

Origins is one of three grants that have been terminated out of 233 that have been awarded across Oregon.

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