County, church team up to help vets

DALLAS — There’s no place to shelter homeless veterans — or anyone who is homeless for that matter — in Polk County.

Polk County Family & Community Outreach and Dallas United Methodist Church have a plan to build a temporary shelter for homeless veterans on the church’s property, but need the community’s feedback before making the plan reality.

Family & Community Outreach Director Brent DeMoe and Dallas United Methodist Church Rev. Quinton Kimbrow have been piecing the plan together for a few months, and hosted an informational meeting Thursday at the church to gauge support and listen to concerns.

“This is the first time we would have a shelter at all in our county, but we are passionate about serving our veterans first,” DeMoe said. “The reason we are doing it at this church is because Quinton and his congregation have a heart for serving.”

A modular building with eight private rooms, a kitchenette, laundry facility and a common area would be moved onto the property at 469 SE LaCreole Drive, if the plan comes to fruition.

DeMoe said vets selected to live in the shelter would undergo a background check to ensure they don’t have a criminal history.

He said he’s talked with the city of Dallas and Dallas School District, as LaCreole Middle School is next door, and they’ve been supportive.

“What we want to do is work with veterans who either want to get back into the workforce or find permanent housing, and they just don’t know how to do that part,” DeMoe said. “We want to provide drug and alcohol treatment if that is needed.”

Marie McCandless, Polk County’s veterans’ service officer, said 13 chronically homeless, 14 “couch surfing,” and 21 “at-risk” veterans have contacted her office since February. She’s been able to help some of them get housing outside the county.

“We can get them services, we can get them benefits, and then as soon as they leave our county, they no longer have that support system,” she said. “This facility that we are talking about is going to give them housing where their support system is.”

Rita Grady, with Polk Community Development Corporation, said longer-term plans are in the works for permanent veterans housing in Independence and Dallas. A grant to build one-bedroom units in Independence has been approved, and the Polk CDC board approved buying property in Dallas for veteran’s housing next to the county VSO office.

But in the meantime, DeMoe said the church is an ideal place to locate the shelter because Dallas United Methodist Church is the host for weekly James2 Kitchen meals, addiction treatment classes and parenting classes.

“If the plan takes root, part of the church would become a day center to serve the veterans with computers, and social services (organizations) that help veterans would visit the center at the church,” DeMoe said. “Anybody who does something with veterans would be able to come here and help those veterans get on their feet a lot quicker.”

Polk County will apply for a one-time Oregon Department of Veterans Affairs grant. While the money can’t be used to buy the shelter building or any other capital expenses, it could help pay for the day center services, or other services.

He said community feedback is important to help design the shelter and respond to concerns, several of which were expressed Thursday. Neighborhood residents said they were worried about putting the shelter so close to a school, as well as property values, and having volunteer training, and on-site supervision, especially at night.

Attendees also said that if the shelter opens, managers should offer community members ways to support it through donations or volunteer opportunities.

DeMoe assured those at the meeting Thursday that more information and meetings will follow.

“It’s important for not only myself, and the congregation here, but for neighbors to know that we want to hear from you, if you are excited about it or if you have concerns about it,” he said.

For more information: Polk County Family & Community Outreach: 503-623-9664, ext. 2118.

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