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Helping Hands Seeks Community Group To Oversee Shelter

SEASIDE — The Helping Hands organization will step away from operating its emergency shelter program in another month, and it is seeking help from community members who want to keep the shelter running.

“We have made the decision that we’re going to have to shut the emergency shelter down, but we think there is a team of people in the community interested in keeping it open,” said Alan Evans, director of Helping Hands.

It costs $3,500 a month to keep the 25-bed shelter open, Evans said at a meeting Thursday afternoon. Although the nonprofit organization has scrambled for the past several months for funds, Evans said the effort has jeopardized Helping Hands’ main program of assisting people attain skills to re-enter society.

Evans said local residents and business operators have expressed interest in the shelter, but more people are needed to form a board of directors separate from the Helping Hands board. Several residents, business representatives and those from agencies that refer clients to Helping Hands will be asked to join the new emergency shelter board.

A nonprofit 501 ( c ) 3 organization for the shelter will be established in a few months; until then, donations to the shelter will be passed through Helping Hands.

“If we had 100 people who could commit to $35 a month, it’s doable,” Evans said.

“We’re looking at 30 days. We’re looking for a group of people to stand up and fight for this building.”

As he looked around at those attending the meeting in the emergency shelter on South Roosevelt Drive, Evans counted 16 formerly homeless people who had stayed at the shelter overnight and later enrolled in Helping Hands’ re-entry program. Their length of stay in the program so far ranged from a 30 days to a year.

Evans said Helping Hands was willing to manage and staff the shelter and “give the first $100 per month.”

In addition to providing 25 beds a night, the emergency shelter building at 1530 S. Roosevelt Drive also is used as a meeting space for re-entry classes, including 12-step meetings, parenting groups, therapy sessions and employment readiness programs. The classes also are open to the public, Evans said.

The Helping Hands board hopes to submit a $180,000 grant request to the Murdoch Foundation for a development director in all three counties where Helping Hands operates. In addition to Clatsop County, the organization also has re-entry programs in Yamhill and Lincoln counties.

However, foundation officials have told the organization that, while they might consider the grant request, they are concerned that the shelter could endanger the re-entry program.

“They’re worried about making the grant with the extra appendage,” said Seaside City Councilor Jay Barber, who is one of Evans’ advisers.

Neither Evans nor Barber would speculate on what would happen to the homeless in South County if the shelter closes.

“It will still be here,” Barber said. “I know several donors that have been waiting for a workable plan.”

Spinning the shelter off of Helping Hands and creating a separate board “will open pocketbooks,” he added.

From Jan. 1 to Wednesday, a total of 51 days:

• There were 867 overnight stays at the shelter.

• An average of 17 persons stayed at the shelter per night; numbers ranged from 12 at the lowest to 28 at the highest.

• Of those who stayed at the shelter, 62 percent were men, 34 percent women and 4 percent children.

• Those staying at the shelter included 86 new referrals from Clatsop County agencies.

• 21 people were referred by churches.

• 13 people were referred by hospitals: Eight came from Providence Seaside Hospital, and five were from Columbia Memorial Hospital.

• Eight referrals originated from mental health agencies.

• Nine people were told about the shelter by police officers.

• Six referrals were from Clatsop County Corrections.

• Five people came from Clatsop Community Action.

• Six originated from the Women’s Resource Center.

• Three were referred by treatment centers.

• 14 were walk-ins.

• 736 meals were served.

• 18 people were placed in the Helping Hands re-entry program.

Evans said the effort to save the shelter needed to go beyond Helping Hands and into the community.

“We have until April 1 to come up with a solution, to get a group of people together who are interested in being the voice for this shelter,” he said.

This story originally appeared in Daily Astorian.

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