MEDFORD, Ore. — On Thursday, lawmakers heralded another favorable economic forecast for the state of Oregon. One lawmaker in particular, House Speaker Tina Kotek, indicated that it would mean a larger investment in addressing the state's struggle with homelessness.
"In the midst of a statewide housing crisis, I think it’s essential we direct some of our ending fund balance toward helping individuals and families experiencing homelessness get access to shelter," Kotek said in a statement. "I will be increasing my request for one-time dollars for serving unsheltered Oregonians from $40 million to $60 million.”
For organizations in southern Oregon that are on the frontlines of fighting homelessness, Kotek's statement is welcome news.
“I think that anytime that you have funds available that can be utilized for shelter and hosing services, it brings people to the table because all of a sudden they have resources, so anytime we’re able to bring people together and have resources to actually do something, it ends up lending itself to the bigger picture of the work we are doing,” said Matt Vorderstrasse, development director for Rogue Retreat.
According to Vorderstrasse, it was a one-time grant that allowed the Kelly Shelter in Medford to become a year-round 54-bed shelter for the homeless. Before Access received an influx of funding and put $1.2 million toward the Kelly Shelter project, it was no more than a winter shelter for three years.
Rogue Retreat runs the Kelly Shelter, and the organization's greatest purpose is to address the affordable housing and homelessness crisis in the area.
“With the initial investment, that’s how ACCESS and the Jackson County COC was able to leverage the funding, enabling Jackson County to buy the facility that the Kelly Shelter expanded into,” Vordstrasse said. “It is an investment that the state of Oregon that we're grateful they made, and the initial investment that they did . . . the increase of that is just going to help more people.”
Whether Kotek's proposal will become a reality remains to be seen, but she still leads a Democratic supermajority in the state House.
According to Vordstrasse, there's still much more to be done here in southern Oregon.
“Part of the reason that we’re in the situation we are in now is because of the housing deficit that we have with affordable housing," he said. "And we know that as a community we need between four thousand and five thousand affordable housing units built to correct the market.”