By Pat Caldwell
ONTARIO – An idea to help the homeless in Ontario through a large grant is gaining momentum but at one elected official believes the city is bending its own rules to help the concept along.
The proposal, offered by Councilor Marty Justus, would alot $18,000 to the homeless kitchen at the Origins Faith Community Church at 312 N.W. 2nd St.
Ontario City Manager Adam Brown is working on a resolution for the council to review next week.
A resolution regarding grants and donations is already on the city books and Councilor Norm Crume said elected leaders need to follow it when deciding the issue.
“That way the whole budget process is used to its extent and in the way, it is designed to be used,” said Crume.
Current city law requires a 12-step process including oversight from the budget committee to grant city money to specific organizations.
Under Justus’s plan, Ontario would provide $6,500 to the kitchen. The city would then seek $4,000 each from the cities of Vale and Nyssa and Malheur County.
“The kitchen doesn’t have a sustainable funding source. If we are going to have a kitchen that feeds the homeless it needs to be sustainably funded,” said Justus.
The plan stems from a presentation by Angie Uptmor, Community in Action housing program manager, to the council last month.
The council responded by voting to support the homeless kitchen.
Crume and Councilor Dan Capron voted no on the plan to move forward with the new resolution that would change the city’s process.
“I voted no because it needs to go through the proper procedures,” said Crume.
Brown said the council can change city resolutions at will.
The homeless issue is again at center stage locally because recent statistics showed that population jumped by more than 50 percent between 2015 and this year. For example, a one-day count of homeless in 2015 identified 104 homeless in Malheur County. This year, that climbed to 151.
“The estimation is it is going to grow even more than it has,” said Justus.
Uptmor said the $18,000 should be enough to keep the kitchen running until June.
The need remains acute, said Uptmor.
“We are getting about 20 people a day at our meal site. That is up from about nine or 10,” said Uptmor.
Brown said he has talked to Malheur County Commissioner Don Hodge about the proposal and reached out to the city managers of Vale and Nyssa.
Vale City Manager Lynn Findley confirmed he received an email from Brown about the proposal last week.
“I’d be happy to visit about it and we should do that as city managers,” said Findley.
Have a news tip? Contact reporter Pat Caldwell at [email protected] or 541-473-3377.