BROOKINGS, Ore. -- Homelessness across Southern Oregon is not just impacting those who don't have a place to live. It's also impacting community members.
The Brookings City Council held a work session meeting June 7, following a petition submitted to the city of Brookings with the purpose of making the city reconsider allowing vagrants to continue congregating at St. Timothy's Church.
The council is now reviewing the possible steps of addressing neighborhood concerns including sending and official letter to the Public Health Department inquiring about the operation of an unpermitted commercial kitchen that serves up to 70 meals while open, require St. Timothy’s to apply for a minor change to their existing conditional use permit in order to condition the increased use of the property, and revisit and potentially rescind temporary rule 2020-1 allowing temporary car camping at religious institutions authorized by the city in March 2020.
Tina Peters is one of at least 29 concerned community members, living in Brookings for 31 years, who wrote a letter stating in part “my fear is for our children and young adults”.
The Executive Director for Brookings Core Response, Diana Cooper, who works in partnership with St. Timothy’s Church, says the church won't stop helping the homeless.
“…We're really lacking services…so as far as what the church is going to do about the city's concerns…we can't stop services and it's not our fault that no other church is providing services.”
Cooper also said, “I’d like to see more community support, people don't usually come to council and talk about St. Tim’s unless it's in a negative way or talk about homeless unless it's in a negative way.”
In addition to giving out food and providing other resources to the homeless throughout the week, the church also allows the homeless population in Brookings to use the address for mail and has been able to get several people housed.
Rev. Bernie Lindley says until city members are able to provide the resources the church currently has, his hope is for the church to be acknowledged for the work it is doing.
The reverend added that the church has created a safety net that homeless people in Brookings would not have had otherwise.
He says the church helps people by allowing them to use the church's address to get mail that helps them to receive health care and other needed benefits.
“It's nearly impossible to get people housed in this area.”
The reverend says helping people get on the list for housing has always been a priority and they have also made plans with FEMA to get those in need Covid-19 vaccinations.