Temperatures dipped to 35 degrees in Curry County this week, followed by wind and a cold rain. On any given day, as many as 350 to 500 unsheltered community members are trying to survive in Curry County, according to Beth Barker-Hidalgo, executive director of Curry Homeless Coalition.
“Some households are living in temporary emergency housing or motels throughout Curry County,” Barker-Hidalgo said. “Many continue to experience homelessness, living in vehicles, tents, RVs, doorways of businesses, churches and other structures that may provide temporary shelter.” It’s not just individuals, but sometimes entire families living in RVs or cars, garden sheds, storage units or tents throughout the county.
“We have veterans who cannot find safe, stable and affordable housing in Curry. And then there are those individuals with few opportunities for support,” she said. “Brookings/Harbor has the highest need for subsidized or supportive housing,” she said. “It stands to reason as south county houses the majority of our population. Port Orford came very close to mitigating their homeless population last year. Our colleagues in Port Orford, staff at Coast Community Health, keep us informed as to how many people are unsheltered. Last report we received was there are four unsheltered individuals. That said, there are people precariously housed, which means they may be doubled up with other households, living in RVs with no hook ups on private property, sheltering in garden sheds in people’s back yards. In Gold Beach there are approximately 20 to 25 unsheltered individuals; again many households are doubled up, or living in precarious situations.”
The 501(c)3 nonprofit is trying to raise $25,000 as a partial down payment to buy a former group home. AllCare has contributed an additional $17,500, and the Coalition has submitted an additional request for support, along with a forthcoming grant request to The Gordon Elwood Foundation. When asked about the deadline for raising funds, she answered, “Before the house sells. The house was listed February 2020 and has had no offers to our knowledge. The price has been lowered three times since we looked at the property. The seller is an LLC partnership and they are aware of our interest in the property.”
The home the group wants to purchase would provide temporary transitional housing as people wait for more permanent solutions to come available. “Operating this group home will help get people off the streets while they await a housing choice voucher, or a subsidized unit,” Barker-Hidalgo said. “Wait times can be 12 to 24 months or more depending on the community and program criteria.
“This home will give people a place to call home, lessening the toxic stress of ‘where will I sleep tonight?’ Or ‘will I be safe?’ she said. “When people are constantly encountering situations that create toxic stress such as this, they are unable to think clearly, make appropriate decisions and/or follow through with steps to achieve housing stability.”
The gamut of people who currently are finding themselves homeless is wide ranging and not the stereotypes portrayed by media. “We are seeing an alarming number of senior citizens falling into homelessness,” she said. “We receive calls from seniors who lost a spouse or partner and now cannot afford rent on their single income. We hear from seniors who are paying $800 a month for rent, with a monthly total income of $1,000. These folks are precariously housed, subject to loss of housing the first time an unexpected expense arises.”
Curry Homeless Coalition serves people throughout the county, but the home they are trying to purchase would mostly serve those in Gold Beach. The five-bedroom, two-bath home is move-in ready, ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant, and has a fire suppression system. “It is set up as a group home, perfect for our intentions,” she said. “This is not to say other homes wouldn’t work, however, we’d have to make modifications to a regular single family home to ensure compliance issues are not a concern.
“We will screen our clients to determine which would be most likely to succeed in achieving safe, stable housing,” she explained. “We have three clients at the ‘top of the waitlist’ for the Coos Curry Housing Authority. These individuals have been unsheltered or precariously housed for over a year, waiting for their housing choice voucher. These are clients who are engaged in systems of care, or support services. These are the clients we will target with the transitional housing project in Gold Beach.”
Transitional housing is typically a three- to eighteen-month stay. With three rooms available for tenants and another one occupied by a House Manager, the fifth room will be used as a case management drop-in office. The House Manager will oversee day-to-day tenant needs, observe and report discrepancies and call 911 in emergency situations.
“Our partners like ORCCA, Oasis, AllCare, Advanced Health, SCBEC and more can meet with clients at the home, providing additional support services to help tenants be successful with long-term, appropriate, safe, stable housing,” she said. “Each client has their own needs. We develop client-centered plans for each person who engages with support services. It’s difficult to forecast how many people we can help as each client will have differing needs. Let’s say we have three clients with average one-year stays, we could help up to 15 people over a five-year period and so on.”
The City of Gold Beach will need to approve an application to operate the home. “The City of Gold Beach makes zero decisions in the months of November and December of an election year,” she said. “Once the new council is seated we can submit our application to operate a transitional housing program. We are probably looking at making an offer ASAP and closing escrow, if all goes well, by early spring.
This purchase may become a pilot program for locating and buying more lodging options. Currently, the county is providing in-kind support for the current offices in Gold Beach where clients can also get showers and do laundry, in addition to services and resources for finding stable housing. Advanced Health has been supporting the Coalition’s operations for nearly two years. “We are grateful for their generous support over the last 22 months, totaling nearly $80,000,” she said.
In the meantime they have to move out of their current location on Colvin St. in Gold Beach because their lease ends on December 31, and the county has other plans for the space. The organization recently received a donation of a 12-passenger bus from Curry Public Transit. “My husband and a couple of our clients removed all but four of the seats. The idea is we will operate a mobile outreach program using the bus while we negotiate for the purchase of the home. We will be able to continue all services except showers during the transition.”
If you would like to learn more, volunteer or donate, you can send checks to PO Box 349, Gold Beach, OR 97444, or visit their secure website at www.curryhomelesscoalition.org and donate through PayPal. See Beth Barker-Hidalgo’s guest commentary on p. 4.