A screenshot of a Malheur Enterprise video with interviews of people affected by the homeless camp clearout in Ontario Monday.

ONTARIO – When Dan Ramirez saw the video he knew he had to act. 

The self-sufficiency programs manager for the Department of Human Services watched a Malheur Enterprise video of folks affected by a homeless camp clearout that took place in Ontario Monday. 

“I said to my staff ‘You all have to watch this’ and they all started giving me a little bit of feedback,” Ramirez said. 

The department sent out two employees Wednesday to a meal site – the New Hope Day Shelter at 312 N.W. Second Street – inside Origins Faith Community, an Ontario church. The meal site is open 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday and offers snacks on Fridays.  

At the church, DHS staff passed out vouchers for free showers at Pilot Travel Center in Ontario as well as hygiene kits. Ramirez said they also passed out business cards and information about the various programs DHS offers.

DHS staff members spoke to an estimated 11 people who were at the meal site Wednesday. Some people already had assistance through DHS, but “for those that have not thought about our services we gave them information so they can apply and we’d be happy to do intakes,” Ramirez said.

Ramirez said the agency was not previously aware of the meal site, but now has plans to have a weekly presence there. 

“Since we are now aware that this is an ongoing type of meeting we’re going to make the resources available to make it easier for those folks to reach us without the extra hassle of coming into our office,” Ramirez added. 

He said DHS wants to increase its visibility with the population of displaced individuals in the city.

“I think as we all learn what’s going on we’ll all be more involved,” Ramirez said. “I didn’t see the impact it would have on the community until I saw that video.”

Alec Stinson, director of the New Hope Day Shelter in charge of the meal site, said about 15 people came to the meal site Wednesday. He usually sees closer to 30 people on a usual day, but the number drops any time there is a clearout.

“When people are all of a sudden displaced their new mode is to find somewhere else to go, so coming in to get something to eat and get warm isn’t on their radar anymore,” Stinson said, adding that clearouts such as the one on Monday weaken the trust that homeless folks have for local agencies and sites trying to help. 

The New Hope Day Shelter is a partnership between the church and Community in Action in response to the lack of a homeless shelter in the city. 

The day shelter is not currently operating, but the church and the agency have spent months renovating a space inside the Origins building. Over the summer, a shower and laundry were added. 

Stinson said the church is still not sure when they will open the day shelter and that more information would be available in November. 

HOW TO HELP

The New Hope Day Shelter currently needs at least six volunteers per shift to help out with their meal site Monday through Thursday. The site cooks, serves and cleans up in less than four hours. The site needs volunteers who have a food service license or are willing to get one with the church’s assistance. Volunteers are needed from 10 a.m. to noon for meal prep, and from 2 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. for serving. If you can’t commit to the entire time, they also accept volunteers for portions of the mealtime. You can join for as little as one day a week or every day. Once the day shelter is fully open, they will need volunteers from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. 

 Other ways to help 

Day Shelter “Hosts” are needed to work with the director by welcoming and overseeing those who are using the day shelter. 

The site is also looking for help with special one time or monthly / yearly events. 

Do you have a unique skill you want to share that may help meet a need like haircutting/styling, computer skills, or job application assistance? 

For questions or to let the site know how you can help, contact: NewHopeOntario@gmail.com

Other needed donations include: 

Dry and canned goods, non-expired and in good condition

Bottled water

Coffee, non dairy creamer, sugar

Toiletries including: travel sized soaps, shampoos, tooth paste, shaving cream, lotions; disposable razors, toilet paper, famine hygiene products, deodorant 

New socks and under garments 

Large garbage bags 

Paper towels 

Kleenex boxes and travel packs 

Backpacks

Hair brush/combs 

Ibuprofen/Acetaminophen

White bath towels 

Hand/diaper wipes 

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