Jessica Cejnar / Tuesday, Oct. 8, 2019 @ 3:29 p.m. / Community, Local Government
Rogue Retreat Introduces Tiny House Transitional Housing Model to Crescent City Council
About a month after making a presentation before county supervisors, Rogue Retreat representatives introduced their tiny house transitional housing model to the Crescent City Council.
The Medford-based organization’s founder and executive director, Chad McComas, told the City Council on Monday that though they’d be an available resource, putting together a similar program in Crescent City would require community collaboration.
“What we’re asking is for you to consider the idea and work with local folks,” McComas said. “And we can help counsel them if they want to move forward. Let’s get the idea out there and let’s do something in the community. Let’s create a steering committee of local people.”
McComas and Matthew Vorderstrasse, Rogue Retreat’s development director, fielded questions from City Councilors about Hope Village’s rules, steps taken to convince Medford city officials and residents the model would work, as well as its operational costs and potential funding sources for keeping it running.
“For me, I’m mostly concerned about NIMBY stuff,” said Councilman Alex Fallman. “I saw the footage, it just looks like any old trailer park, but what sort of engagement with the community was conducted prior to and after the village was erected? How did you assure people this was going to work out?”
Rogue Retreat began operating Hope Village in 2017. According to Vorderstrasse, a steering committee raised the money — about $600,000 — convinced the City of Medford to lease them land for $1 per year and initially constructed 14 housing units. They now have 30 units, he said.
The units are insulated and have windows, but they don’t have electricity, water or plumbing. Villagers access kitchen, showers and restroom facilities in mobile trailers. An office building houses a community gathering area, laundry, case manager offices and a manned host for checking in and out of the area. Hope Village sits on an acre of city-owned property in Medford.
Rogue Retreat also founded a smaller tiny house village transitional housing program in Grants Pass.
According to McComas, Hope Village houses roughly 35 people currently with 25 working full time. He said about 60 percent of their clients move on to “something better.” The average turnover rate at Hope Village is about four and a half months, McComas said.
Hope Village also requires its clients to pay rent starting at $60 per month. After three months, the rent increases to $160 per month, according to McComas in a video created by the Chico Housing Action Team.
Though he described Hope Village as a low-barrier shelter program, Vorderstrasse said those who do join must sign an agreement stating they will work with a case manager and follow his or her action plans. There is zero tolerance for alcohol or drugs on site. Villagers complete chores to maintain their dwellings, and if they struggle with addiction or mental health issues must commit to addressing those issues, Vorderstrasse said.
“Most folks have not been in a community for awhile,” he said. “They’re in survivor mode. If they have to steal to eat, they’ll steal to eat. When you put them in a community, they can no longer act that way anymore. Once they become community-focused, they don’t want to leave.”
Another challenge, Vorderstrasse said, is many clients are worried they’ll lose any rental or food subsidy benefits they may have if they find sufficient work.
“We teach people to break through those barriers,” he said. “Don’t be afraid to lose those subsidies and become self sufficient.”
Crescent City Mayor Blake Inscore asked about potential funding sources.
“I know we have some local people interested and I think it’s a great thing for us to consider,” he said. “But it only becomes a great thing to consider if there’s a strategy that allows us to find a means to raise those operational costs.”
According to McComas, Oregon has local action agencies that operate with federal dollars filtered through the state. He said California may have a similar model. There are also Medicaid dollars available for transitional housing programs in Oregon, he said, adding that diverting people from seeking medical assistance through the emergency room saves money. McComas said community organizations like churches could also donate to the program.
Rogue Retreat’s presentation to the Crescent City Council came at the recommendation of District 2 Supervisor Lori Cowan. Following the organization’s presentation to the Board of Supervisors, Cowan told the Outpost that True North Organizing Committee’s Homeless Organizing Network brought Hope Village to her attention.
True North would need to develop a plan to determine whether a similar model would work in Del Norte, Cowan said.
In other matters on Monday, the Crescent City Council unanimously approved new office hours for city hall. Staff will work nine hours a day Monday through Thursday and city hall will be closed on Fridays, said City Manager Eric Wier.
Staff will come to work every other Friday for training, meetings and other organizational needs, he said. City Hall hours will be from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., according to Wier.