Homeless program seeks local funding

A program that provides temporary housing for homeless people has seen federal dollars drying up, prompting Medford officials to ask for help from other local cities and Jackson County.

Grants for the Continuum of Care program have undergone a steady decline from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, from $320,931 in 2012 to $257,733 in 2017, to pay for transitional housing for homeless people.

But other municipalities have been reluctant to help backfill with local dollars, and Medford officials say the county has so far indicated it provides enough transitional housing for the homeless at the Jackson County Jail.

“We all need to work on the county,” Councilor Dick Gordon said. “They think it’s a city of Medford problem.”

Outlying cities such as Shady Cove and Eagle Point also have indicated to city officials they aren’t affected by the homeless problems.

“I’d like to see buy-in from some of the smaller cities,” said Councilor Kevin Stine.

But Stine said he agreed the county isn’t providing help for the program even though it’s a countywide problem.

“If we’re talking about this being a regional solution, they need to chip in,” Stine said.

While homelessness has been a problem in Medford, it has affected communities across the country as well as cities along the Interstate 5 corridor in Jackson County.

City Manager Brian Sjothun said larger cities with similar programs have been soaking up more of these federal dollars, leaving less for cities such as Medford.

He said the city isn’t asking for a handout from other local cities as much as it’s asking for everyone to be at the table to help resolve an area-wide problem.

“We need some help,” Sjothun told members of Medford City Council Thursday. “Medford can’t fund this entire thing.”

Sjothun has been chair of the reconstituted Continuum of Care executive committee, which is made up of representatives from the Jackson County Housing Authority, Jackson County Health and Human Services, ACCESS, AllCare Health, and Kris Allison, Central Point Police chief.

Over the next year, the committee wants to develop a more sustainable revenue stream by reaching out to other municipalities for support. Other goals include developing a better system of tracking efforts that help the homeless, developing subcommittees to craft policies, adapting services to better handle youths, and working with individual communities to tailor services to better adhere to HUD requirements.

The local program provides money for housing for the homeless administered by ACCESS, the Rogue Valley Council of Governments and Community Works.

Constance Wilkerson, Continuum of Care homeless prevention coordinator, said one of the goals is to create a better program that will bring in more federal dollars for homeless care, as well as to bring in more local dollars.

“We need a communitywide effort to house the most vulnerable among us,” she said.

Wilkerson, who started in her current position in January to reinvigorate the program, said the city of Medford stepped up with a $30,000 grant this year to help keep administrative costs for the program funded.

ACCESS has been shouldering the financial burden for paying much of the administrative costs to keep the Continuum of Care program going.

“We continue to pick this up while we see a decrease in funding from HUD,” said Pamela Noor, executive director of Continuum of Care.

In Jackson County, there are 170 shelter beds available year round and about 100 seasonal shelter beds, which includes the Kelly Shelter, which opened last year.

Continuum of Care was created in 2001 with help from HUD.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or dmann@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on www.twitter.com/reporterdm.

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