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Help The Homeless

Community forum to address needs, resources

DALLAS — With one of the coldest winters on record and snow still on the ground, citizens of Dallas began a community discussion: How can we help those who are homeless?

Brent DeMoe, director of Polk County Family and Community Outreach, and three other organizations will host a forum on homelessness Thursday from 6:30 to 7:45 p.m. at Valley Life Center in Dallas.

DeMoe said the point of the meeting isn’t to sit and listen to what agencies have to offer, but to have a conversation with people who want to help immediately, help in the near future, and make plans for down the road.

“This is 100 percent inspired by Facebook and social media and this community right here,” he said. “We cannot solve this issue in one 90-minute meeting, but it’s to get things started.”

How can you help?

What: Community Forum: Local Solutions to Address Homelessness.

When: 6:30 to 7:45 p.m. on Thursday.

Where: Valley Life Center, 1795 SE Miller Ave., Dallas.

Of note: Free child care and refreshments will be offered.

On Jan. 4 at the Dallas Service Integration Team meeting, someone from West Valley Housing Authority said the organization could use some coats, hats and gloves.

County Commissioner Mike Ainsworth was there and challenged the group to collect some — and quickly.

“It really just snowballed in such a positive way from there,” said DeMoe.

It started with a post on the Dallas, Oregon Community Bulletin Board that morning. By noon, it had been shared 89 times, DeMoe said.

Donations poured into the Academy Building Resource Center, where West Valley Housing Authority is a partner organization.

“Conservatively, we had 500 coats donated, hats, scarves, gloves, clothing — new and used — boots, shoes,” DeMoe said. “We got six brand new clothing racks donated to us. Now we can display things. We can organize things.”

The donations were organized by volunteers and will be distributed to Central Resource Center and to Falls City and Grand Ronde, also.

DeMoe said he shouldn’t have been surprised about how effective Facebook is in getting the word out about needs of the community — he uses Facebook regularly, himself — but he and his staff at Family and Community Outreach had never thought to post needs on the social media website.

He and his wife, Lisa, started going through the community bulletin to answer any question they could about what resources are available to people in need.

“What I’m finding is there are people who don’t know about the resource center,” DeMoe said. “There are people who don’t know about the health clinic. There are people who don’t know even about parent education.”

A second Facebook page focused on helping homeless was created on Jan. 5, and that’s when DeMoe realized he and his department and partners could help.

The community member who started the homeless page suggested getting a group together to discuss ways to help, DeMoe said.

“I’m thinking, why is it her that has to suggest that? Why aren’t we getting a group of people together? And why don’t we include all of these people?” he said.

The Community Action Agency, Salvation Army, and the only shelter program in Polk County, Interfaith Hospitality Network, will join DeMoe at the forum on homelessness.

“I hope to say, if you’re interested in warming shelters, Pastor Heather Wright’s sitting right there; go to that table,” he said. “If you’re a church and you want to do this, get over there and do that. If you’re here from a school and want to do a coat drive, start tomorrow. Get coats of all sizes and we will get those coats to everybody who needs them through these partners.”

In Polk County, West Salem is No. 1 for homelessness, followed by Falls City and Independence, but that’s not to say Dallas and Monmouth don’t have homeless people, DeMoe said. The forum is meant to be countywide, not just for people in Dallas.

Free child care and refreshments will be available at the forum, donated by Mid-Valley Parenting and Country Financial.

RSVP is not required, but would be appreciated to Alinna Ghavami via email at Ghavami.alinna@co.polk.or.us.

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