Plans to open a daytime drop-in center for homeless people in Astoria have stalled.
Filling Empty Bellies, a nonprofit that connects the homeless with jobs and social services and provides free lunches at a downtown park, hoped to open the drop-in center at the former Tide Point restaurant off state Highway 202. But the property owner, Rising Tide Enterprises LLC, owes Clatsop County thousands of dollars in unpaid taxes and is facing foreclosure.
Randy Lustig, of Total Employment and Management, or TEAM, an employment agency partnering with Filling Empty Bellies to lease the building, said they didn’t realize how serious the situation was at first. Lustig said the owners told him they were addressing a small tax lien against the property, but he didn’t know about the foreclosure proceedings or the full extent of the liens.
Filling Empty Bellies was going to share the building with TEAM. The employment agency has found jobs for a number of the nonprofit’s participants and planned to hire more to help run the drop-in center. They envisioned a one-stop shop — a place where homeless people could connect with a variety of social services, shower, wash their clothes, learn job skills and get ready to seek employment.
“Now, we haven’t quit,” Lustig said. “We’re still trying to work toward making things work, but at the moment it’s kind of all on hold.”
In 2015, Rising Tide Enterprises owed the county more than $27,000 in unpaid property taxes and interest, according to county records. By the end of 2017, the county announced the redemption period for the property was set to expire this September.
Lustig has been told Rising Tide Enterprises still hopes to resolve the tax issues. However, if the county does foreclose on the property, Lustig said TEAM would be interested in acquiring it.
Vernon Hall, co-director of Filling Empty Bellies, said the nonprofit will continue the hunt for a space. Organizers have been looking for a building since January. Hall said they will still work with TEAM to match people with jobs.
“We haven’t given up on it,” Lustig said of the building off Highway 202. “It was the perfect fit.”
The former restaurant was equipped with a commercial kitchen, office space and parking, as well as other amenities. The two groups said the building had the added benefit of being located away from downtown, where the presence of homeless people has become a source of controversy.