Lincoln City Mayor Dick Anderson said Monday night that housing has always been the number one priority of the City Council.
And at the Jan. 13 meeting, the Council decided they are not just talking about it, they’re going to do something about it.
The City has had several discussions as of late about a potential deal that would include Lincoln City’s purchase of two lots at 3454 NE Hwy 101 and 2201 NE 34th St. for $400,000, which would then be transferred over to the non profit organization Helping Hands Re-entry Outreach, who provides transitional housing and homeless shelter services.
In addition to the $400,000, a $350,000 rehabilitation loan would be given to Helping Hands to make building improvements. The loan will be paid back over 20 years at $1,500 per month.
The goal of Helping Hands will be to turn the multi-building complex into approximately 70 small living units that will only be housed by families. In addition to converting the complex into livable dwellings, Helping Hands will provide career training and family counseling with the goal of bringing families above the poverty line.
The City Council deliberated on Monday about moving forward with the deal and although all members believe something needs to be done to address homelessness in Lincoln City, a few are concerned with the large amount of money the City will be shelling out.
“We have many other priorities for funds, and this is taking a big chunk out of it,” Mayor Anderson said. “All this money comes from the same place, (tax payer funds), so I just want to remind us one last time of all our priorities. We made a wish list (of things we wanted to do), and I think it came over $4 million.”
In total, the City will be paying $750,000, which comes from a reserve fund made up of taxpayer dollars used for social services.
“It’s a somber decision and a serious use of taxpayer dollars, but I also see this as an opportunity that this community has been needing,” Councilor Rick Mark said.
Councilor Diana Hinton was adamant in saying she is ready to move forward with the deal and that this shows that the Council is not just talking about problem solving, they are doing something to solve community issues. However, other councilors were still on the fence based on the steep cost.
“This is a lot of money for a project that we went out and brought to us,” Councilor Riley Hoagland said. “I’ve been homeless, I’ve been out there and know what it’s like… but I don’t feel like this is the time to do this.
“I appreciate everyone’s work, but $750,000 for this full project is beyond what I’m comfortable with for the whole city.”
In her final statements, Councilor Judy Casper reiterated that they had done the groundwork and said they had a responsibility to the members of the community to make the right decision.
“We’re taking a big step, we’re being leaders and that’s what we were elected to do,” Casper said. “There are children out there and I like this facility because it deals with families. If we don’t take some leadership and responsibility and try, having done our homework, I think we would be neglecting the people we represent.”
Similarly to the relocation of the Lincoln City Warming Shelter/Communities Helping Addicts Negotiate Change Effectively (CHANCE), this new Helping Hands project has drawn some concerns from neighbors in the area. Councilor Rick Mark addressed those concerns and stated that safety is important, but there is a dire need for a solution to the homeless issue.
“It’s now January, we have cold nights and cold rain, and I keep thinking about the fact that there are people sleeping in the woods,” Mark said. “If we can get people out of the woods and into someplace safe, warm and dry this time of year, I think we have a responsibility to do that.”
Ultimately, the City Council voted 6-1 to move forward with the transaction.