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Helping Hands seeks $100,000 from county to get through coronavirus

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Helping Hands, a nonprofit that does outreach with the homeless and other low-income people struggling with housing, has requested $100,000 from Clatsop County to help offset overhead costs during the coronavirus crisis.

The organization provides temporary housing for people enrolled in reentry programs and has 80 beds in Clatsop County, including a shelter at a former boarding house in Uniontown. Alan Evans, the nonprofit’s executive director, said most of the people they help work in the service sector and have lost their jobs because of the government restrictions on businesses.

Homeless shelter

Helping Hands has a shelter in Uniontown.

Overhead costs for each person are over $500 a month, he said. People in reentry programs typically pay $250 a month, which covers part of the overhead, while fundraising makes up the rest.

With people unable to pay, the ability to hold fundraisers limited because of the virus and the loss of additional money through contracts, the organization is asking the county to help maintain services.

“What we’re facing coming down the road — we’re looking at a possible disaster financially,” Evans said.

The county Board of Commissioners discussed the funding request during a work session held via teleconference on Tuesday. Commissioners asked county staff to prepare a plan for what the county can afford in time for a work session and meeting next Wednesday.

County Manager Don Bohn recommended the county offer financial support to Helping Hands.

The county also reached out to other social service agencies like Clatsop Community Action, which operates the regional food bank, and The Harbor, which works with victims of domestic violence.

Bohn said if these agencies did not exist, the county would have to find ways to provide services like housing, food banks and shelters.

“The county can’t afford to operate a food bank and so by having an entity that manages a food bank separately that we can support in some way is a benefit to the taxpayers. Because ultimately, the more community partners we have to provide these services is a benefit to all of the community,” Assistant County Manager Monica Steele said in an interview.

“We only receive so much in tax money in order to provide all of these services. So, if we’re trying to take the same amount of tax money, but provide even more services, then the ability is diminished.”

During the work session, Steele said Clatsop Community Action reported a 50% increase in the use of the food bank in the past few weeks. The agency anticipates demand will continue to increase, she said. They also anticipate about 1,000 people will need rental assistance for the month of April alone.

Helping Hands runs 11 facilities with more than 220 beds in Clatsop, Tillamook, Lincoln and Yamhill counties. Evans said the organization does not receive consistent financial support from Clatsop County like they do from other counties.

“If we thought homelessness was a problem before this occurred, what we have coming down the road … the services in our community are going to be more important than they ever were before,” Evans said. “The impact of this is going to be bigger than we’ve ever seen before.”

“Every agency in this community is so important, and every agency is struggling to provide services to people,” he said. “We understand completely because we’re on the front line of this thing.”

Nicole Bales is a reporter for The Astorian, covering police, courts and county government. Contact her at 971-704-1724 or nbales@dailyastorian.com.

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