Overnight Winter Lodging program to be replaced

AmeriCorps member Nichole Lopez works with Overnight Winter Lodging staff to prepare rooms for the shelter's homeless guests in 2016.

Local nonprofit Peninsula Poverty Response (PPR) will not host its Overnight Winter Lodging (OWL) program this winter. The program provided a warm place to stay for those without shelter.

The nonprofit is researching opportunities and choosing what new program it will implement in OWL’s place.

“OWL, as it has been, is not sustainable for what we want to achieve,” Pastor Karen Humber, also PPR at-large executive board member, said.

PPR decided to stop OWL after looking at the number of people served by the program versus the amount of volunteers and volunteer hours the program takes to run, Humber said at PPR’s Sept. 30 meeting. The nonprofit has been working since March to decide the organization’s next project.

“We know the need is out there. We’re not denying that,” Humber said at the meeting.

PPR is exploring the possibility of building a relationship with the Astoria Warming Center and Astoria Rescue Mission. The group is also considering taking on long-term projects, such as offering hygiene-related services and childcare services.

PPR hosts fundraising and outreach events including a triathlon at Cape Disappointment in May, a golf tournament in June and a student resource fair, Pack2School, in August. PPR will host the Project Community Connect, an event that connects attendees to needed services, on Jan. 24 at the Elk’s Lodge.

OWL typically served about 30 people during winter. From January to February 2016, OWL served 29 guests. From December 2017 to February 2018, the program served 33 people. OWL operated five nights a week during both of these time frames.

From November 2016 to March 15, 2017, OWL served 134 guests. The program operated seven days a week during this period. At Peninsula Poverty Response’s September meeting, it was noted this number was high due to daily coverage and several people only staying for a couple nights.

When OWL ran for seven days a week, people were more likely to utilize the program because they wouldn’t need to worry about losing a space outdoors or their belongings, Pastor and PPR Chair Dawna Svaren said. Often, individuals brought everything they owned to OWL when it was operated daily.

OWL takes multiple volunteers to coordinate and be present for overnight shifts. The program would need at least 10 volunteers present overnight and to coordinate one night of the program. Finding volunteers willing and able to make the time commitment to run OWL was a challenge. The program required thousands of volunteer hours, Svaren said.

“We’re trying to decide how can we use that volunteer power to help a greater population here,” Svaren said. “If we had the people-power to continue it we would.”

About 17 percent of Pacific County lives below the poverty line, according to the Pacific County Economic Development Council. This includes about 270 homeless students on the Peninsula.

During the 2017-18 school year, 658 out of 1,050 students enrolled in the Ocean Beach School District (OBSD) qualified for free or reduced lunch. This figure rounds out to about 63 percent and is expected to increase to about 70 percent for the 2018-19 school year, said Elly Rosaire, the district’s family resource coordinator, at the Sept. 30 meeting.

Peninsula Poverty Response is working on creating a complete document of local resources. The document should be complete by late November. PPR is also in the process of starting a newsletter titled Hand in Hand.

A 2017 county resource list is available at http://bit.ly/2yv09n3.

The Coastal Community Action Program provides housing services for low-income people in Grays Harbor and Pacific counties. The south county office can be reached at 360-642-6100. The north county office can be reached at 360-875-4123.

Local churches such as St. Vincent de Paul provide services on a case-by-case basis, Svaren said.

The Driftwood Apartments, a new complex, will provide 27 housing units for low-income by the end of 2019. The apartments will be located at 10th Street North and Oregon Avenue.

PPR meets at 2 p.m. in the South Pacific County Community Room on the second Thursday each month.

“We’ve appreciated those who have offered their time, talent and financial support,” Svaren said. “We hope to continue as partners with them to serve those experiencing homelessness and unstable living conditions.”

Alyssa Evans is a staff writer for the Chinook Observer. Contact her at 360-642-8181 or aevans@chinookobserver.com

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