A homeless veteran prepares his things after being told by officials he must leave the area in a recent sweep. (The Enterprise/Joe Siess)

ONTARIO – Ontario officials are reviewing a plan to use tiny homes as emergency shelter for the city’s homeless population.

An idea to use golf cart storage at the Ontario Municipal Airport fell through last week, said Adam Brown, Ontario city manager.

“We did end up talking to our engineers at the airport and there were some obstacles there about not having any residential properties within 1,000 feet of the runways,” said Brown.

Now, he said, city officials are studying whether the idea of buying sheds – with $150,000 from the state – is workable.

“It is probably a solid, primary option,” said Brown.

The Ontario City Council was scheduled to discuss the option at its regular meeting Tuesday. 

Brown said Community in Action would use the state funds to buy the tiny homes while the city will look for a site for the homes. He believes the city could have enough money to buy 20 tiny homes.

“We’d buy sheds from somewhere and put some insulation in with some sweat equity and get small heaters wired into them,” said Brown.

Brown emphasized the initiative is preliminary.

“Nothing is on paper. Nothing has been official,” said Brown.

Where the sheds would be placed isn’t settled, said Brown.

 “That is yet to be determined,” said Brown. “Because nobody wants it next to them. Everybody wants to do something but not in their backyard.”

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Councilor Norm Crume said he doesn’t have a solution either, but “just thinking out loud” there could be several suitable sites in Ontario. Crume said one possibility is next to Origins Faith Community on Northwest Second Street. That site is also where a new day shelter for the homeless opened last week. The city does not have an overnight shelter for homeless. 

“The other option would be what I call the north end of the old city shops right off Oregon Street,” said Crume.

Crume said there is a small parcel of city property in the area – between Northeast Third Avenue and Northeast Fourth Avenue north of the water tower – where the city could donate the land to Community in Action to use as the shed site. Crume said there is a home there – owned by Bob Thorstad – that the city could possibly buy to use as transitional housing for the homeless.

“We could donate the sewer and water,” said Crume.

“I believe the city can help out with the homeless situation, but I think we need to have community partners. It is a countywide problem. So, I believe everyone kind of needs to chip in,” said Crume.

Dan Capron, city council president, said he wants to hear more about the sheds before deciding.

“What is the end game? Are you housing people that will always be homeless or homeless that are trying to better themselves? What are we doing? I have all these questions,” said Capron.

Capron said the city should be cautious.

“I know I don’t want the city running housing for the homeless. I want to get all the facts and see what is going on,” he said.

In October, the city conducted a sweep and clear operation of a homeless camp near the city’s water treatment plant along the Snake River. 

Reporter Pat Caldwell: [email protected] or 541-473-3377. 

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