City & Government, Cottage Grove

Unhoused conversation continues 

COTTAGE GROVE – Following the City’s May 18 work session to discuss how to manage Cottage Grove’s unhoused population, city manager Mike Sauerwein provided a history lesson and staff suggestions to council May 28.

“I think we’ve got good momentum coming out of the work session in addressing this issue, and I don’t want to let that momentum die,” Sauerwein said. “I really want to keep this ball rolling.”

The Grove has three unhoused sites: Douglas Street, 12th Street, and Highway 99. Although daily garbage has been provided since the jump, the City has invested at least $1,414,403.67 among the three sites since 2021, although $697,839 were American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds.

Sauerwein said city staff are developing a plan to accurately capture both hard and soft costs associated with shelter operations, adding that the plan will be implemented as part of the 2024-25 fiscal year budget.

City staff’s recommended next steps were to develop a business plan for the proposed connector shelter and possibly the Highway 99 shelter with St. Vincent de Paul (SVdP), which would have a strong emphasis on stable and sustainable long term funding.

Staff would work with the city attorney on an appropriate procurement process for contracting with SVdP. The Douglas and 12th Street shelters would transition to a connector shelter, and a plan for closing the Douglas and 12th Street shelters would be included.

There is also potential for the Highway 99 shelter to be repurposed, as it will be mothballed June 30, and city staff recommend the Douglas Street site be repurposed into low income housing.

“I was just so thrilled with their comments because they seemed really upbeat. They really had an idea of how they were going to be successful, and I think that’s a wonderful step forward,” councilor Mike Fleck said. “I’m super excited that this might give us some opportunity to improve the situation. I wholeheartedly support all of staff’s recommendations.”

While most of council had positive comments about the potential partnership with SVdP, mayor Candace Solesbee expressed some concerns.

“I’m trying to stay optimistic, but to play the devil’s advocate, I’ve heard this before. Carry It Forward was supposed to come up with funding and fell short and could not, and we spent almost $1 million building that,” she said. “I would like us to make sure we don’t put the cart before the horse.”



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