ONTARIO — The Homeless Coalition is a newer player to Ontario and has been running about a year and a-half. The Homeless Coalition started up when the Harvest House closed. Homeless Coalition is trying to make a permanent solution to the problem of those who are homeless or in need and who are cold without a warm place to go in Ontario.

During the Ontario City Council’s work session on Thursday, Ontario City Manager Adam Brown suggested approval of a four-month temporary agreement determining the fitness for the city’s partnership with Community in Action to use a city facility as a longer-term warming shelter.

Harvest House closed in 2016. Since then, Community In Action has been carrying on some meal services through New Hope Kitchen at Origins Faith Church. Ontario, Nyssa, Vale and Malheur County all chipped in funding to keep services running through the end of 2017. Since 2018, Community in Action has been operating from other funds.

The cold weather is still coming before spring, with a winter advisory beginning tonight and stretching through the weekend.

Discussion circled around whether subsidized rent should be provided for the shelter so people can have access to hot showers, nutritious food and a place to get warm.

Organizers from the Homeless Coalition would like to see a permanent solution housed at a city building at North Oregon and Southeast Second streets. Ideally, the facility would serve as a warming shelter and place to serve meals, and a the Homeless Coalition’s funding source would cover operational costs.

Unfortunately there are not simple answers to this problem. Homeless Coalition staff are looking at a 400-page outline for simply leasing a site, with state financing, and potentially 15 years of hoops to jump through via addendum. The Homeless Coalition has 19 different funding streams, and only one must be spent on funding services, according to information presented to the City Council.

Officials hope to purchase the building if possible, from the city.

Ontario Mayor Hill asked, “What are we agreeing to?”

He wanted to know if it would be a cash purchase or whether the city would receive annual payments.

Officials from Homeless Coalition said they did have the funds to pay the mortgage.

Community in Action will cover all utility costs for the building.

The problem however, is that the city can not rezone the building from industrial to commercial, according to Economic Development Director Dan Cummings. He said, there are no conditional use permits granted in industrial zones, and Ontario can not temporarily re-zone.

City Attorney Larry Sullivan said in the interim he could create an irrevocable license, which would be simple and would allow folks to quickly take possession of the property, without causing excess burden or expense.

Council members determined they would work out the details, of a temporary short-term agreement and come to a consensus reviewing zoning issues, and whether the city has legal authority to authorize the zone changes.

No action was taken.

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