County to accept grant for homeless alternative

By on Wednesday, May 25th, 2022 in Columbia Basin News More Top Stories

WEST UMATILLA COUNTY – The cities of Hermiston, Umatilla, Stanfield, and Echo are joining with Umatilla County to provide a place for the homeless to rest. The Practical Assistance through Transitional Housing project – also known as PATH – will be a facility on the west side of the county at the intersection of Lind and Bensel roads.

The county commissioners approved accepting a $1 million grant from the state to create PATH at their meeting Tuesday.

“The state is driving the bus on this,” Board Chairman John Shafer said. “We don’t have a choice. We want to be out in front of it and have a solution in place that works for us locally versus having the state force it on us.”

Prior to the board meeting Tuesday, the commissioners attended a work session about the project with the Hermiston City Council and other involved parties on Monday. He says the property in question will be annexed into the city of Umatilla, and a third party will be sought to establish some form of alternative housing.

“In terms of actual operations, a lot of that will depend on what the proposals are,” Assistant City Manager Mark Morgan said.

Morgan said the homeless ruling only applies to Western states under the jurisdiction of the Ninth Circuit Court. That court ruled that if communities create ordinances barring the homeless from sleeping in public spaces that they must supply them an alternative place to rest.

“Absent any additional review by the U.S. Supreme Court that’s the law of the land,” Morgan said. “Then the state legislature codified that and gave communities the deadline of next year to have something in place.”