GUEST COLUMN: Compassion for Our Neighbors

By Tillamook County Board of Commissioners
Lack of available housing is one of the biggest challenges in our area. This includes housing of all kinds: emergency housing for the homeless, supported housing for those with special needs, senior housing, subsidized affordable housing where rent is based on income, workforce housing for people who make too much to qualify for subsidized housing but can’t afford sky high rents and market rate housing for professionals. We need both rentals and family homes for people to buy. Across the board, we need it all.
Fortunately, there is a lot of momentum in the area of housing and there are exciting projects in works in Tillamook County, including several that will serve the needs of the most vulnerable people in our community. We want to share the good news about a few of those projects, and ask for the community’s support, and perhaps most importantly, compassion.

In North county, a dynamic project called Sammy’s Place has begun that will provide semi-independent housing opportunities for individuals with developmental disabilities. The Thompson Road parcel secured by Sammy’s Place had been foreclosed upon for back taxes owed. It contained a mountain of blackberries, falling down buildings and extensive scrap metal. The parcel was included in a county land sales auction and there were no bidders. Thereafter, Sammy’s Place applied, paid the back taxes and was deeded the property as a qualifying non-profit through ORS 271.330 which allows the transfer of property for low income housing to non-profit organizations. Similar land donations have been made to Habitat for Humanity in the past.
The Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) are pleased and proud to support this visionary housing project with a land donation and we affirm our commitment to providing housing opportunities for all people in our community. Sammy’s Place board of directors and volunteers are clearing a three-acre parcel on Thompson Road in Nehalem, under direction of the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) for reasons of asbestos abatement, etc., which will be a micro-community of mixed-use homes for individuals with developmental disabilities and workforce housing. One of the founding members of Sammy’s Place, Kathy Jean Hrywnak, said, “Everyone deserves the opportunity to choose where they live, and those with disabilities in our community that want their own homes in a nurturing,
nature-based setting will have that choice with Sammy’s Place.”
The BOCC fully supports Sammy’s Place in their efforts to provide housing for those with disabilities. We ask for the forbearance and compassion of folks on Thompson Road who are understandably concerned about how the nature of their neighborhood may change. Change is difficult and it is also essential to vibrant, thriving, livable communities. We believe that Sammy’s Place will be a model for creative housing solutions and a jewel that we can all be proud of. For more information about Sammy’s Place, to volunteer or donate, please visit https://www.sammysplace.info/
A project for affordable housing with 60 units will break ground in Tillamook in the spring of 2020. Northwest Oregon Housing Authority (NOHA) will develop the Holden Creek Village on 12th Street. These homes will be designed as a community with multiple units (as opposed to apartments) with paths and wetlands and the character of a neighborhood. This project will be subsidized housing and qualified renters will pay on a sliding scale according to their income.
This project meets housing needs for low income families with children, individuals and seniors, and there will be five units dedicated to the persistently and severely mentally ill. This is a tremendous and much needed resource in our community. Those five individuals will receive case management from Tillamook Family Counseling Center (TFCC) to provide the supports necessary for them to be successful in their homes and in the community. Tillamook County is fortunate to have this project in the pipeline for our vulnerable citizens. There is already a wait list of local people in need of affordable housing that far exceeds 60 units. We hope that the neighbors on 12th Street will recognize the need, celebrate the solution and welcome new residents to Holden Creek Village.
Homelessness is on the rise everywhere, not just Tillamook County, due to several factors including lack of available and affordable housing. We hear reports every day of folks living in their cars and working, sometimes with kids, living in “zombie” RVs, living in the woods, couch surfing and sleeping under bridges.
Two projects that will help the homeless in our community are in the works. Helping Hands Reentry Outreach Center, the homeless shelter at the Port of Tillamook Bay, is in the process of remodeling the top floor of the former Naval Command Center, which will significantly increase the number of residents who can be served there. Helping Hands provides a clean and sober, safe environment for homeless people including families with children to get back on their feet and supports to help them be successful. For more information or to volunteer or donate to Helping Hands go to helpinghandsreentry.orghelpinghandsreentry.orghelpinghandsreentry.org.
In Tillamook, Community Action Resources Enterprises, or CARE, Inc. is building tiny houses to temporarily house homeless people near the Herald Center at the Tillamook Seventh-day Adventist Church. The small pod of tiny houses will provide shelter and connect residents to services that will help them bridge the gap from homelessness to being productive members of society.
We should all remember that the fall from grace can be very short. Many Americans are a couple of paychecks away from financial ruin, perhaps due to no fault of their own, which could result in homelessness. However, the climb to get back from homelessness to being housed, employed and self-sufficient can be arduous and very long. It is in everyone’s best interest to help our homeless neighbors and it’s the right thing to do. It is a credit to the generosity of spirit and compassion of Tillamook County citizens that we recognize the need for housing of all kinds and are willing to help find solutions.