GRANTS PASS – At least a dozen interested parties and representatives of regional service providers attended a roundtable discussion about establishing a winter warming station in Grants Pass. The discussion was facilitated by Grants Pass City Manager Aaron Cubic at City Hall Oct. 24. Cubic led the attendees through a comprehensive agenda focused on establishing the scope of the proposed project, identifying its goals, and creating action items to move the proposal forward.
Cubic began the discussion with introductions of those in attendance and the establishment of certain ground rules. He clarified the difference between objectives and deliverables, while assisting attendees with developing a plan to achieve both.
The overall objective of the group is to create a “safe, dignified place where people can stay, especially during the coldest time of the year,” said Sam Engel of AllCare Health and member of the city’s Housing Advisory Committee. Engel said it was important that the proposed warming station include a “low barrier” to those who wish to take advantage of its services.
Cubic expressed the importance of taking “baby steps” toward establishing an emergency warming station, before “trying to tackle the greater goal of a permanent shelter” that could be open year-round. Members of the panel agreed.
Volunteer and long-time activist on the issue, Geneva Matson, said the immediate objective was to prevent deaths or injuries related to exposure to cold weather. Additional objectives identified by the group included informed accessibility to ensure that people are receiving the correct level service they need, outreach and introduction to available services, understanding the value of people and services, protecting those served, and sustaining the program.
In a recent report delivered to the city council, Director of Parks and Community Development Lora Glover explained how neighboring cities assisted warming station efforts led by local nonprofits and churches in their communities. Glover said that an emergency response station does not have the same zoning restrictions or legal requirements of a permanent shelter, and that her department could help facilitate a council resolution regarding a location for a proposed emergency station.
Cubic assisted the attendees with further identifying the scope of the project and specific deliverables required to move forward. The group consensus was to limit the scope to addressing the immediate need for a warming station during cold and inclement weather conditions. Future plans could include a summer station addressing heat and potential air quality issues during fire season.
Deliverables included an approved location, standard operating procedures, partnering organizations, mats and/or cots for beds, restroom facilities, trained staff and volunteers, food and water, and representatives and literature from area service providers.
Immediate required tasks were identified to include a lead agency stepping up to further guide the effort. Di Bradley with United Community Action Network said that her agency could help by taking on the leadership role, and guiding partner agencies and churches through the process of developing operating procedures and memorandums of understanding to help them all work together. Bradley said her agency also had funding to help with necessary supplies such as mats and/or cots.
Matson said she had acquired an extensive list of potential volunteers, and she would assist with volunteer activation. Engel said he could assist with contacting providers for food and water supplies. Pastor Dennis Webber of Parkway Christian Center said he could assist by contacting locations regarding temporary use as an emergency shelter as long as solid plan was in place to ensure locations that they will be protected issues that could arise from this type of use.
Matson said that she had contacted as many as 18 different locations already.
“Some of them just flat out said, ‘No,’” Matson said.
Cubic expressed encouragement at the details for action items developed through the roundtable discussion, and optimism that a solid plan was now in place for partners to move forward. Other participants agreed.
“It’s huge that the city was willing to take this on and conduct this conversation,” said Engel.