LINCOLN COUNTY — The Lincoln County Board of Commissioners funded an emergency motel voucher program for unsheltered individuals, which began on Monday, March 16.
Lincoln County Commissioner Claire Hall indicated the program is a response to the continued cold weather and the high risk faced by homeless individuals in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s hoped this step will protect the health of the individuals involved, as well as reduce opportunities for spread in the larger population,” Hall said.
The county is contracting with Coastal Support Services, which is managing intake and booking of rooms during what the county commissioners indicated is a two-week trial period.
According to the media release issued by the county, up to $5,000 was initially allocated in Newport and $5,000 in Lincoln City.
“To qualify for the program, people will have to identify as sleeping outside,” the county detailed. “Those living in a vehicle will not be included.”
Amanda Cherryholmes, longtime local homeless advocate leading the effort on behalf of Coastal Support Services, said the program is meant to aid the county’s homeless population, not those from out of the area. Other criteria include a clean urine analysis, and people cannot present symptoms of respiratory illness.
The first 11 rooms were filled almost immediately, Cherryholmes indicated of the rooms made available at Lincoln City Travelodge and Summer Wind Budget Motel in Newport.
On Tuesday, March 17, Cherryholmes said the Shilo Inn in Newport made 20 rooms available, and Palace Inn & Suites in Lincoln City made 10 available. As of press time on Tuesday, 12 of the 41 available rooms were filled.
Cherryholmes indicated that the warming shelter was still in operation at First Baptist Church in Lincoln City, but she did not know if it would be able to remain open when the current conditional use permit expires. The church has room for only 10 individuals, she said.
According to the Lincoln County School District website, during the 2018-19 school year, “at least 209 students were in the category of ‘unsheltered’ as defined by the McKinney Vento Homeless Education Act.”
The number of unsheltered children is likely even higher, said Cherryholmes, noting that she placed three families with a total of nine children from the Family Promise Program, coming to the aid of that agency.
“We’re all in this crisis together,” she said.
Cherryholmes estimated that there was a need to house 200 to 300 additional homeless people in the area.
In Lincoln City, Cherryholmes is the emergency motel voucher program contact and can be reached by calling 541-264-0457.
In Newport, people should contact Ken Wood at 541-270-8767.