Government

Cottage Grove council approves low-barrier shelter site on HWY 99

COTTAGE GROVE – After months of deliberation and community discussion the Cottage Grove City Council voted to construct an unhoused shelter off of Highway 99. 

In a 5-2 decision Monday night, the Cottage Grove City Council moved to begin construction of a low barrier shelter at the city-owned property at 2205 Highway 99. 

The motion was put forth by councilor Mike Fleck and was seconded by councilor Kenneth Micheal Roberts, who previously voted against the shelter. 

“We are running out of time,” Roberts said. “A lot of people say they’re scared of becoming Eugene. We’re on our way now by leaving these people in our parks during the winter.” 

Roberts’ change of heart came after he took a trip to Eugene, where he met with nonprofit organizers at St. Vincent DePaul and Carry it Forward. 

An example of already-used pallet shelters in Cottage Grove.

“I toured many homeless programs in Eugene, and I think they are very, very well done,” Robert said. “When it comes to the community in Cottage Grove, I think there is a place for that here.” 

Over the course of the last few months, city staff and the council have discussed what addressing homelessness in Cottage Grove might look like while still adhering to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Martin v. Boise decision and Oregon House Bill 3115. The court ruling prohibits the city government from preventing people from sleeping on certain public lands. In order to prevent those lands from being used, city staff and councilors have deeply explored creating a transitional housing program.

The project on Highway 99, a no-/low-barrier site, adheres to these rulings and intends to first get unhoused people stabilized, then integrate them into the broader community.

In her research, “the shelters with barriers didn’t work,” councilor Chalice Savage said. “But the places that had no barriers had really high success rates. We are in a tough time. We are in a situation where things are costing more. What do we do? People should not be cold. I feel a sense of urgency for folks who are going to be cold soon.” 

The housing structure sitting on the Highway 99 property will be used to provide mental health and addiction services on site. The city is in dialogue with nonprofits Carry it Forward, St. Vincent DePaul and SquareOne Villages to help provide such services, and intends to place 33 pallet shelters on the property to provide transitional housing to residents. In the next few months, the city will draft an RFP, or a “request for proposal,” to potential nonprofits willing to contract with the city to run the facility. It will also be drafting ordinance changes to protect public land once alternative shelter has been established. 

“I’m excited to go home and tell my kids I was a part of this,” councilor Jon Stinnett said. “I thought all along we needed to do something. I think we’re being proactive and compassionate. I ran on a platform of creating community, and this is a great step in that direction.”