Veterans’ shelter project moving forward

The site plan, prepared by Rex Price Architect, for Gale's Lodge on the Dallas United Methodist Church property. The shelter will be behind the church.

Rendering provided by Rex Price
The site plan, prepared by Rex Price Architect, for Gale's Lodge on the Dallas United Methodist Church property. The shelter will be behind the church.

DALLAS — Gale’s Lodge, a shelter for homeless veterans, is one step closer to reality.

The Dallas Planning Commission approved a conditional use permit on Sept. 25 that would allow the shelter to operate on the Dallas United Methodist Church property at 565 SE LaCreole Drive, Dallas. For one segment of the homeless population, the project will answer a need that hasn’t been fulfilled in Polk County.

“Polk County has had a lot of resources for years now,” said Polk County Family & Community Outreach Director Brent DeMoe. “We’ve always lacked for the folks we are helping, where are they going to spend the night.”

Polk County Family & Community Outreach and Dallas United Methodist Church congregation and pastor Rev. Quinton Kimbrow are working together bring the program to fruition.

“This is at least a 50-50 partnership,” DeMoe said. “It would not exist without Dallas United Methodist Church, the leadership of Quinton, his trustees and the entire congregation.”

The shelter and program meant to help participants find work and permanent housing is named after the late Gale Carruthers, a Dallas resident who served in the U.S. Navy during World War II. Carruthers was an active volunteer in the Dallas community and lived across the street near where the shelter will be placed.

The project will remodel a modular building into a bunkhouse with room for six veterans and an on-site veteran host. The building will have a bathroom, laundry room, kitchenette and common area for the vets to use.

Oregon Department of Veterans Affairs awarded the project $40,000 to purchase furnishings for the shelter and a stipend for the on-site host for two years. Polk County purchased the building, which was recently painted and ready to be moved when the site is ready. Community Action Agency will provide ongoing financial support for the project. DeMoe said the shelter will still need to raise more money or find volunteers to help with installing flooring, plumbing and electrical at Gale’s Lodge.

The church, also a meal site for James2 Community Kitchen, will provide the veterans housed through the program with a day center with access to resources for work and permanent housing.

“The approach we have is the services and agencies come to the church to develop an individualized plan for each veteran in the program,” Kimbrow said. “That way they don’t have to navigate the system on their own.”

Gale’s Lodge will house veterans for up to a year and will screen applicants to make sure they have no violent criminal history or sex-related charges. Drugs, alcohol or weapons will not be allowed on the site.

“We are really looking for people who are really motivated to get better employment, or employment period if they are unemployed, and better or more stable housing,” DeMoe said. All program participants will be assigned a peer mentor who also is a veteran.

People often have a perception of homeless vets that often doesn’t match reality, DeMoe said. He said many vets are living on the streets or with relatives or friends because they’ve struggled to find a job after coming home. He said after release from active duty, the decline in income can be sharp.

Derrill Robinson, a U.S. Army veteran, voiced support for the shelter at the planning commission meeting, saying when he served during the Vietnam era the American public wasn’t as supportive as it is now. Still, some vets don’t get the help they need when they return to civilian life, he said.

“Today, as back then, not every service person has the support they needed to integrate back into society,” Robinson said. “I believe we have that support in Gale’s Lodge.”

Vickie Boer, whose husband served during the Vietnam War, said vets now face rising housing and health care costs that a burden. Boer also spoke at planning commission meeting.

“We feel strongly that this outreach will give much needed support in our community,” she said. “There is currently nothing in this county for the homeless and this is a good start to addressing homelessness. Out veterans deserve nothing less.”

DeMoe said Gale’s Lodge will only serve vets who live in Polk County and is limited to housing six, with the anticipated stay at four to six months. “Unfortunately, we have enough homeless in Polk County who are veterans to probably do this two or three times over,” he said. “Doing six at a time will be a small, manageable bite.”

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