House Bill 2006 passes; unknown whether this means Ontario's homeless shelter must stay open

This photo from February shows the restroom area at Ontario's transitional shelter for homeless persons.

ONTARIO

A bill requiring that local governments allow for the siting of emergency shelters for people who are homeless was passed in the Oregon Senate on Monday and as it carries an emergency declaration, it now heads for the governor’s desk. It is too early to know whether it will mean Ontario’s transitional shelter, set to close at the end of May, will have to stay open.

House Bill 2006 began life in the House, with House Speaker Tina Kotek, chief sponsor; it was passed by the House in April. As intended, these shelters would be buildings, or clusters of buildings, to be used as temporary shelters for people who lack permanent housing. Shelters would include sleeping quarters and restrooms for families, must comply with applicable building codes and must be located in an urban growth boundary or in an area zoned for rural residential use.

The shelters may offer shower or other bathing facilities, storage for client’s personal property, laundry facilities, meals prepared on-site or offsite and recreational areas for children, among other amenities.

The bill reads that a shelter will require adequate transportation to commercial and medical services and must not pose any risk public health and safety.

Emergency shelters must be operated by a local government, local housing authority, a religious corporation, and a public benefit corporation.

“Housing is a top priority,” said Sen. Deb. Patterson, D-Salem, who carried the bill on the Senate floor.

On any given night there are about 10,000 people in Oregon without shelter, she said, and the bill gives communities more options for meeting their needs and some cities are supporting the legislation,

“We are in an emergency and we must do this,” Patterson said.

Unknown yet how it might impact Ontario

On April 22, the Ontario City Council denied an extension to keep Ontario’s transitional shelter project open, instead voting to have it close by the end of May. There are currently 16 families staying at the shelter.

The project, now in its second year and second location, was initially intended to be open during winter months only. It is a collaborative effort between nonprofit housing assistance agency Community in Action and Origins Faith Community, as well as the city of Ontario.

An email was sent Monday afternoon to City Manager Adam Brown about whether this would mean the city must allow the shelter to stay open.

Based on his first impression of the bill’s summary, Brown said it may be the case, however, added that he had not “reviewed the bill enough to render a non-legal opinion” regarding the matter.

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