Tag: Newsletter Spring 2023

Letter from the Executive Director – Spring 2023

Letter from the Executive Director - Spring 2023

The first act that Governor Kotek took upon taking office this year was to declare a homeless state of emergency for much of Oregon. Though neither Douglas nor Josephine County were included in this declaration, those of us working to address homelessness locally know that we have our own crisis here. UCAN has stepped up to play a major role in addressing this crisis, while continuing to operate countless other programs.

2022 saw UCAN start up operations of several projects of critical importance to our communities. The first new project we undertook addresses the lingering impact of the Archie Creek Fire. At about the same time we received funding for this work, we responded to a request from the City of Roseburg to become the primary operator of a local homeless navigation center. Within a few months we had entered into both a lease for the center and an operating agreement with the City to provide services. We began operations on July 1.

A few months later, in October 2022, we learned that a local homeless service provider in Josephine County was struggling to maintain its operations there. The doors of two shelters, one a general congregate shelter, the other a tiny home community, would close end of November if we didn’t act quickly. By December 1st, we had a transfer agreement in place and were operating both facilities.

As winter approached, it became clear that no other organization could operate an emergency warming shelter in Josephine County. Our Housing and Homelessness staff took initiative to keep people from freezing on the streets. Staff worked round the clock many days in early 2023, as the region experienced temperatures far below normal (including several days with snow).

I am so proud of staff’s incredible dedication and hard work to get these projects off the ground. We’ve also had wonderful support from community partners, particularly through funding received from both the City of Roseburg and City of Grants Pass. Many community agencies are coming together to further these efforts, ensuring that folks receive an array of services needed to get their lives back in order.

It was especially heartening when Governor Kotek and her staff visited us to tour our Roseburg Navigation Center and our Feeding Umpqua food warehouse and distribution center in February. We took this opportunity to offer an on-the-ground perspective of the issues our communities face. I came away from this meeting hopeful that the Governor and others in Salem will focus additional resources to help our region.

You can learn much more about our new projects and ongoing work in other articles in this newsletter. I hope that you, too, will consider supporting UCAN, as your support allows us to react quickly to emerging issues. You can make a donation today by going here.

UCAN Starts Operating Roseburg’s First Navigation Center

UCAN Starts Operating Roseburg’s First Navigation Center

The City of Roseburg (City) recently received an award of funds from the State to create and operate a navigation center to meet the needs of unsheltered homeless folks. Needing an operator for the navigation center, they reached out to UCAN, and we began operations July 1, 2022.

The City’s Gary Leif Navigation Center is named after the late Gary Leif, Roseburg’s local representative in Oregon’s legislature, who worked tirelessly to find solutions to homelessness. The State legislature passed a law in 2021 allowing for funding of low-barrier emergency Shelter (also known as “navigation centers”) that are open 24/7. Here guests receive shelter, case management and housing services, and obtain referrals to other services they need. The City was among the first to receive funds for a navigation center, and UCAN agreed to operate it.

While the City is having repairs and renovations done on a building that will provide group shelter, UCAN has been offering homeless guests the use of ten individual pallet shelters. We currently also offer guests bathrooms, showers, washers and dryers. Guests have access to a kitchen where they can prepare meals.

As a low-barrier shelter, UCAN allows guests that are often excluded from other local shelters. Guests can have criminal backgrounds; only sex offenders can be excluded. UCAN does not require guests to meet sobriety requirements. While guests are not allowed to bring alcohol or non-prescription drugs into the shelter, they are allowed to stay at the shelter even if they are not sober. Guests simply must act in a manner that does not interfere with guests’ and staffs’ enjoyment of the shelter and its resources.

Guests do have to work with a UCAN case manager, and they need to commit to taking actions to obtain permanent housing. Linda and Carl are among those who have come to us ready to find a permanent home. Unable to work, and dealing with HIV, they were tired of living in a van. As shelter guests, they worked closely with our staff, HIV Alliance and staff from the Oregon Health Authority to address their health and housing needs. Our staff was very impressed with their level of commitment, their down-to-earth demeanor, and their caring attitude toward others. They now enjoy life in their new apartment, having obtained rent assistance from a section 8 voucher.

The main shelter will open later this Spring. Once completed, the group shelter will offer 35 beds. We look forward to helping many unsheltered folks get off the streets, so they too can find a permanent home for themselves.

UCAN Offers Array of Services for Homeless Folks in Grants Pass

UCAN Offers Array of Services for Homeless Folks in Grants Pass

Beginning this Fall, UCAN began offering a variety of services to help shelter homeless folks living in the Grants Pass area. We are now the operator of a congregate shelter, a tiny home community and have opened an emergency warming center to prevent hypothermia and frostbite on very cold days.

Beginning on December 1 of 2022, UCAN took over operation of both the Grants Pass Shelter as well as the tiny home community at Foundry Village. The Grants Pass shelter is a group shelter that has around 25 beds in semi-private rooms. The shelter is a low-barrier shelter, meaning UCAN allows guests to live in the shelter with fewer barriers than are found at other shelters. Guests do not have to participate in treatment programs to reside at the shelter, but many work with staff to seek permanent housing.

Foundry Village offers eight and a half tiny homes to serve up to 17 guests, as well as a community building. The community building has a variety of amenities, including a kitchen, bathroom and showers, and laundry facilities. Moving forward, UCAN is contemplating having Foundry Village serve as more traditional transitional housing, perhaps as a place where guests from the Grants Pass shelter move to when they near finding permanent housing. We may also identify specific types of folks to serve at Foundry Village, such as homeless families, or homeless individuals with physical disabilities.

The final resource UCAN has made available to homeless folks this year is the Grants Pass emergency warming shelter. The shelter operates during particularly inclement weather, and is intended to keep local homeless residents safe and dry during such weather events. With multiple cold weather storms this winter, including several snow events, we have operated the shelter for 40 days.

We are most grateful for the tremendous effort and dedication our Grants Pass staff has shown in swiftly taking over operations of the Grants Pass Shelter and Foundry Village, as well as standing up the local emergency warming shelter. Without their dedication, the Grants Pass Shelter and Foundry Village would likely have closed in December, leaving several dozen homeless individuals on the street. Operation of the emergency warming shelter has kept well over 100 homeless folks healthy and safe.

UCAN Meets Urgent Needs

UCAN Meets Urgent Needs

What happens after you’ve left your home as it goes up in flames? After fire fighters have done their best to put out the fire, rolled up their hoses, and left?

Early on Saturday, January 28, 2023, a family of four living in a double-wide manufactured home in Roseburg awoke to smoke and flames. The father, mother and their two children (ages 8 months and 15 years old) were able to safely evacuate the house and contact 911. The fire moved through the house so quickly they were unable to save their two dogs. Despite the efforts of 13 fire fighters, the house and all their belongings were a complete loss. The family was left with nothing except the clothes they were wearing that morning.

Red Cross made arrangements to put the family up in a local motel for a few days and provided a cash card so they could purchase a few things. But the family needed far more help, and came to our UCAN offices when we opened on Monday. They waited, not knowing if there was anything we could do to prevent them from becoming homeless. Our Executive Director met them in the lobby, and after chatting with them a bit, ensured appropriate staff were made available immediately to assist them.

Jami Daves, our Housing Services Coordinator, and Erica Kimrey, our Gary Leif Navigation Center Program Manager, were soon sitting down with the family. Both Jami and Erica listened carefully to ensure they could best address the family’s needs. Housing was top priority. We provided the family with a two-week motel voucher so they had a safe, warm place to stay in the short-term. Erica and Jami made sure other basic needs were met, arranging for food, clothing, and hygiene items. They also provided items the couple needed so they could continue working. They even provided a Pack ‘n Play portable playpen for the toddler. We continue to work with this family to help them find a permanent housing solution.

Many folks, like this family, are at-risk of homelessness because of issues beyond their control: fires, costly medical treatments, loss of work. Working together, we can all ensure that nobody spends a night without shelter. Consider donating to our housing program so all can find a home.

Helping So Many In So Many Ways

Helping So Many In So Many Ways

As your local community action agency, UCAN takes on new social service programming when there’s a gap in services, and we have the resources to address that gap. That’s why we’ve stepped in to operate homeless shelters for the first time in our history. But while we help meet new community needs, we continue to operate well over a dozen other programs.

In Douglas County, UCAN offers several different child service programs to improve the health and well-being of young children and their mothers, to prepare children to enter kindergarten ready to learn, and to strengthen families. This past year, our Head Start/Early Head Start program served 473 children (ages 6 weeks through 5), providing not only early childhood education, but family home visits, developmental/health screens, and nutritious meals as well. Our Women, Infants and Children’s (WIC) Program offered nutritional supports to over 3,000 women, infants and children. Healthy Families (also serving Klamath and Lake County) and Nurse Home Visiting, our two programs focused exclusively on offering family strengthening, parent education, referrals, and related supports, made close to 1,000 home visits. And our Healthy Start program worked with many families to reduce infant mortality in the County.

UCAN operates a number of programs that help people obtain housing, stay housed, pay their utilities, and stay warm in their homes. These programs are offered in both Douglas and Josephine County. This past year we provided 678 households with rent assistance so they could stay housed. We provided another 289 households with move-in payment assistance so they could move into housing, and helped another 100 households move in to either emergency, transitional or permanent housing. We made 6,476 utility payments, 2,527 of which paid off prior bills that would have otherwise led to folks losing their utilities. We also weatherized 42 homes, ensuring homes were warmer, and in many cases, healthier and safer.

Our Feeding Umpqua program played a huge role in addressing hunger in Douglas County, providing enough food for local pantries to provide over 25,000 emergency food boxes, and allowing local kitchens to provide over 100,000 meals. While Feeding Umpqua was meeting residents’ food needs, our Medicaid Transport program was helping folks get to doctor appointments they otherwise could not drive to in Douglas, Josephine and Coos County. We provided over 11,000 rides this year alone.

We helped about 300 residents of Douglas and Josephine County with all aspects of financial management, including: budgeting, credit management, credit repair, credit counseling. We helped others with their finances, providing bill pay services to 73 individuals, and tax assistance to 1,343 others. The latter service particularly helps our communities, as many individuals receiving tax assistance obtain refunds that they then use to pay for items from local merchants.

Our United Community AmeriCorps program provided a host of sites with members who supported a variety of projects serving 4,549 people. Members also built the capacity of their host sites, mobilizing 991 volunteers. AmeriCorps Seniors engaged many more members ages 55+ in Douglas and Josephine County, offering services ranging from Medicare education to scam and fraud protection. As you can see, we’ve had quite the year at UCAN, and look forward to meeting the needs of thousands more next year.