Agencies coordinating as shelter moves forward

This Dec. 19 photo shows the front of Nichols Accounting building, just beyond the landscaping is an employee parking lot and kitty-corner from that is the site for the proposed temporary emergency homeless shelter. Nichols has filed a lawsuit over the location of the proposed pilot project, however they remain "an active participant in the process," having walked through the project site with the city manager, according to Doug Lamm.

ONTARIO — The homelessness pilot project has courted both support and controversy since its inception in November of 2019. Origins Faith Community in partnership with Community in Action and the City of Ontario devised the “tiny houses” pilot homeless shelter project. This project, intended to provide temporary emergency shelter for the homeless during the lower temperatures of the winter months. It is only slated to last until April of 2020.

The site on which the proposed tiny houses will be located is owned by the city, and is nearby a parking area by Nichols Accounting. Representatives from Nichols have opposed the location of the tiny house project citing safety concerns for employees and clients. On Jan. 16, Nichols filed a lawsuit against the entities behind the shelter project saying that it may cause “irreparable health issues.” The suit lists concerns over sanitation and health issues as it relates to the project.

At the Thursday night Ontario City Council work session, City Manager Adam Brown said that he was set to meet with representatives from Origins Faith Community and Community in Action to discuss the next steps in the project. Brown said that one of the tiny houses has been built and has been inspected. He said that five of the tiny houses can be delivered and put down on the site at one time. The tiny houses will be arriving as soon as this week according to Brown, who also said that an electrician will then be on site to tend to the wiring of the structures.

At the work session, Brown replied to a concern about security surrounding the tiny houses. He told the council that there would be someone from Origins who would be hired to monitor the site “around the clock.”

‘We are coordinating’

Providing an update on the project, Brown stated in an email sent on Friday evening, “James [Vogt, of Origins Faith Community], Heather [Echeveste, of Community in Action] and I have been communicating today on the status of the operation. We are coordinating fencing, sleeping bags, cots, video cameras, and lighting.” He also said that he toured the site with Doug Lamb and Bob Kemble of Nichols Accounting on Friday “to show them how everything would be laid out.” Brown said the three of them came up with additional security measures at the accounting firm’s building “that [Brown] have passed on to our public works committee to complete.” He said he is hopeful that some of the tiny houses will be delivered next week, but cannot say for certain because this is “being coordinated through Community in Action.”

Lawsuit update

Brown also provided an update on the lawsuit filed by Nichols Accounting.

“The lawsuit is out there and will await a trial date. I believe the pilot project will be complete before this goes to trial. The parties may decide that we want to just wait to see what happens in the interim. We are going forward with respect and no animosity for Nichols and their concerns and will do our absolute best to mitigate any problems so that their business or employees do not suffer any harmful impacts from the shelter.”

Doug Lamm from Nichols Accounting responded to the Argus’ request for comment saying, “We met with the City Manager to walk through the project site with an eye to how we provide for the safety of our staff, etc. We are continuing to be an active participant in the process.”

Load comments