Our Own New Orleans
Here in north Tillamook County, we have our own New Orleans - our own vulnerable neighbors and our own housing emergency crisis.
Housing costs have well outpaced income increases, especially in the last few years – this is our levy that’s breaking. The apartment, motel or mobile home park that once provided marginal shelter for a living wage family is now an attractive opportunity for investment, condo conversion or at least an opportunity to inch up raise rents. We see it happening in Bay City, Garibaldi, Wheeler, Manzanita and Nehalem. The one homeless shelter we did have closed for lack of funding.
Here in North County, 412 students, or 60% of our kids in North County, qualify at the poverty levels for subsidized lunches. Who are these families? They are our classmates, neighbors, service workers, industrial and agricultural workers, artists, and teachers. They’re us and our families. Fifty North County youth are consistently living in tents or RV’s, or on friends couches. Here the levy has truly burst.
Here in North County we’re feeling it, talking about it and tacking action. We’re suggesting we do for our own what so many contributed to for New Orleans. Our Neahkahnie School District has led the way in addressing these concerns, but lack the tools to address emergency housing needs in particular. A concerned North County group has formed NeahCasa to address affordable housing needs, to address barriers, and to facilitate proven and cost effective initiatives – to start repair of the levy. The Emergency Housing Program is one these initiatives.
The most immediate need is support of emergency housing for those families with children in the NeahKahNie School District faced with the abyss of homelessness. Under a federal mandate to address barriers to learning such as homelessness, the District has obtained Federal funding under the McKinney-Vento Act for a part-time Family Resource Coordinator in each school to assist students and their families in finding school supplies, services, clothing, food, jobs and housing. Most are families including teens, working or between jobs, and simply unable to feed and shelter their families for now and need help getting through a tough place. NeahCasa is working to focus existing County resources on these families, to identify existing housing resources, to set up a fund to address short term rent assistance, and for repairs and to match families in need with those with apartments, rooms and even RV hookups.
This program will have the cooperation and support of CARE, Youth and Family Services Team and Coammission on Children and Families who will be providing administrative, case management assistance, and referral services. Neahkahnie School District Family Resource Coordinators will help to define needs for the matching search and remain key link with the client family.
Over the coming months and years, you, your church or community organization, will be receiving requests for contributions and to consider the potential of your home or property to provide an affordable rental, or consider below market rent or “sweat” rent. – just like they’re doing down south. We’ll be looking to city and county officials to go the extra mile in granting reasonable requests for waivers and permits to allow more flexibility in accommodating 2nd families on a property.
So, we can do what we’re doing in New Orleans and take folks in need in, offer a helping hand only here with our “own”.