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Homeward Bound program helps Coos County homeless find their way home
New Homeward Bound project has served five local homeless individuals since August

COOS COUNTY — The city of Coos Bay is making sure the homeless find their way home.

The Homeward Bound program began in August 2017 through a partnership between the city and Oregon Coast Community Action. Since being established, a total of five homeless individuals have been bused home to family and friends.

“This is not kicking the can down the road,” said Maggie Sackrider, the interim essential services operations director for ORCCA. “This program connects folks with resources they already have in another location. We sent folks with housing choice vouchers home where they can use them. We do our due diligence by making sure they have those resources available to get them off the streets. If that’s in another location, we try our best to make that happen for them.”

Though it’s still a brand new program for Coos County, the Homeward Bound project can be found in various forms in cities across the nation. For the local Homeward Bound program, there isn’t anything in place to follow up with individuals who are bussed home.

Sackrider explained that once these people get their ticket and board a bus, it’s on good faith that they stay connected with ORCCA. However, families have emailed and messaged them to thank them.

“We had one particular individual whose family connected her to alcohol addiction services and a doctor when she got back,” Sackrider said. “There have been some particular success stories so far.”

According to Sackrider, qualifying for the program is actually very complicated. Not only do homeless individuals first need to visit ORCCA and undergo an assessment, they have to have lived in the community for some time. The program has not been designed for the transient population, but those who have been in the area for an extended period.

“It isn’t cut and dry,” Sackrider said. “We use a tool to assess their particular needs when they come to us where we can find out if they qualify.”

ORCCA used to have funding for a program similar to this, but when the funding dried up the city stepped in.

“They said they were willing to help,” Sackrider said.

When asked why it seems Coos Bay is heading the fight to end homelessness, Sackrider acknowledged the struggle ORCCA has had to open a family warming center in North Bend.

“Despite the fact they postponed their approval, we did get positive feedback from the city itself,” she said. “Homelessness is a complex problem and we sometimes don’t know which direction to go in so I imagine it is just as complex for cities who have limited resources right now. I don’t envy the decisions they have to make on where to allocate funds and when.”

Since Homeward Bound began last summer, it has cost close to $550.

“We’re fighting the rumor that homeless get bussed because there’s a stigma that we’re getting bus passes to move folks down the line but that is not at all what’s going on,” Sackrider said. “Programs like Homeward Bound is where those rumors start.”

Also, once a bus ticket is purchased, that ticket will get homeless individuals to their destination even if there are connecting buses. Sackrider doesn’t believe that people will stop in a city halfway there because “the folks we serve are eager to get home.”


SpaceX's big new rocket blasts off, puts sports car in space

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla.— SpaceX's big new rocket blasted off Tuesday on its first test flight, carrying a red electric sports car aiming for an endless road trip past Mars.

The Falcon Heavy rose from the same launch pad used by NASA nearly 50 years ago to send men to the moon. With liftoff, the Heavy became the most powerful rocket in use today, doubling the liftoff punch of its closest competitor.

For SpaceX, the private rocket company run by Elon Musk, it was a mostly triumphant test of a new, larger rocket designed to hoist supersize satellites as well as equipment to the moon, Mars or other far-flung points. For the test flight, a red sports car made by another of Musk's companies, Tesla, was the unusual cargo, enclosed in protective covering for the launch.

The three boosters and 27 engines roared to life at Kennedy Space Center, as thousands watched from surrounding beaches, bridges and roads, jamming the highways in scenes unmatched since NASA's last space shuttle flight. At SpaceX Mission Control in Southern California, employees screamed, whistled and raised pumped fists into the air as the launch commentators called off each milestone. Millions more watched online, making it the second biggest livestream in YouTube history.

Viewers were left with video images beamed from space of Musk's red Roadster circling the blue planet after the protective covering had dropped away and exposed the car. A space-suited mannequin was at the wheel, named "Starman" after the David Bowie song.

"It's kind of silly and fun, but I think that silly and fun things are important," said the SpaceX chief who also runs Tesla and is keen to colonize Mars. "The imagery of it is something that's going to get people excited around the world."

Two of the boosters— both recycled from previous launches — returned minutes after liftoff for on-the-mark touchdowns at Cape Canaveral. Sonic booms rumbled across the region with the vertical landings.

Musk later revealed the third booster, brand new, slammed into the Atlantic at 300 mph and missed the floating landing platform, scattering shrapnel all over the deck and knocking out two engines.

He was unfazed by the lost booster and said watching the other two land upright probably was the most exciting thing he's ever seen.

Before liftoff, "I had this image of just a giant explosion on the pad, a wheel bouncing down the road, the Tesla logo landing somewhere," he said. "But fortunately, that's not what happened."

Musk's rocketing Roadster is shooting for a solar orbit that will reach all the way to Mars.

Ballast for a rocket debut is usually concrete — "so boring," Musk said in a post-launch news conference.

The Roadster was anything but. Cameras mounted on the car fed stunning video of "Starman" tooling around Earth, looking something like a NASCAR racer out for a Sunday drive, with its right hand on the wheel and the left arm resting on the car's door.

A sign on the dashboard read: "Don't panic!" Bowie's "Life on Mars?" played in the background at one point. A Hot Wheels roadster was also on the dash with a tiny spaceman on board.

The Falcon Heavy is a combination of three Falcon 9s, the rocket that the company uses to ship supplies to the International Space Station and lift satellites. SpaceX is reusing first-stage boosters to save on launch costs. Most other rocket makers discard their spent boosters in the ocean.

Unlike most rockets out there, the Falcon Heavy receives no government funding. The hulking rocket is intended for massive satellites, like those used by the U.S. military and communication companies. Even before the successful test flight, customers were signed up.

"It was awesome like a science fiction movie coming to reality," said former NASA deputy administrator Dava Newman, Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Apollo professor of astronautics. "They nailed it. Good for them."

Given the high stakes and high drama, Tuesday's launch attracted huge crowds not seen since NASA's final space shuttle flight seven years ago. While the shuttles had more liftoff muscle than the Heavy, the all-time leaders in both size and might were NASA's Saturn V rockets, which first flew astronauts to the moon in 1968.

On the eve of the flight, Musk said the company had done all it could to maximize success. Musk has plenty of experience with rocket accidents, from his original Falcon 1 test flights to his follow-up Falcon 9s, one of which exploded on a nearby pad during a 2016 ignition test.

"I've seen rockets blow up so many different ways, so, yeah, it's a great relief when it actually works," Musk said after liftoff.

Not counting Apollo moon buggies, the Roadster is the first automobile to speed right off the planet.

The car faces considerable speed bumps before settling into its intended orbit around the sun, an oval circle stretching from the orbit of Earth on one end to the orbit of Mars on the other. It has to endure a cosmic bombardment during several hours of cruising through the highly charged Van Allen radiation belts encircling Earth. Finally, a thruster has to fire to put the car on the right orbital course. The car battery was expected to last for about 12 hours after liftoff.

If it weathers all this, the Roadster will reach the vicinity of Mars in six months, Musk said. The car could be traveling between Earth and Mars' neighborhoods for a billion years, according to the high-tech billionaire.

"Maybe discovered by some future alien race, thinking what were you guys doing? Did they worship this car? Why did they have a little car? That will really confuse them," Musk said.

Musk acknowledged the Roadster could come "quite close" to Mars during its epic cruise, with only a remote chance of crashing into the red planet.

Also on board in a protected storage unit is Isaac Asimov's science fiction series, "Foundation." A plaque contains the names of the more than 6,000 SpaceX employees.

The Heavy already is rattling the launch market. Its sticker price is $90 million, less than one-tenth the estimated cost of NASA's Space Launch System megarocket in development for moon and Mars expeditions.


State
Oregon lawmaker accused of harassment says he won't resign

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — An Oregon state lawmaker accused of groping women defied calls to resign Wednesday after telling investigators his behavior was "instinctual" and hard to change.

Sen. Jeff Kruse, a Republican who represents the former timber town of Roseburg, was away from work as Gov. Kate Brown and other Democratic lawmakers urged him to step down a day after an investigative report detailed several allegations that he subjected two female senators to unwanted touching and gave lingering hugs to many woman.

The report included video showing him leaning in closely to a colleague and touching her in a Senate committee room.

"I have no plan to do anything different than what I'm currently doing," Kruse told his hometown newspaper The News-Review. "We're still in a formal process here. I have significant issues with the report."

However Wednesday afternoon the Republican Senate caucus said it had accepted an offer from Kruse that he stay away from the Capitol building pending the conclusion of the investigation.

A Senate panel will hold a hearing on the matter on Feb. 22.

Kruse didn't return an email seeking comment from The Associated Press.

The investigation is one of many in statehouses nationwide following a wave of sexual misconduct allegations against men in power since an October expose of movie mogul Harvey Weinstein by the New York Times.

On Feb. 1, Republican Arizona Rep. Don Shooter became the first state lawmaker in the U.S. to be expelled since the #MeToo movement gained steam.

Kruse is accused of harassment but generally not of a sexual nature, though the investigator found that he touched and hugged women more than men, and the people who complained were women.

Kruse told the investigator that he believed his behavior was "instinctual" and that although he wanted to change, "It's not easy to change when you have been doing something for 67 years."

Sen. Sara Gelser, one of the accusers, "did not think that Senator Kruse's actions were sexual, just overly familiar and unwanted contact," the report said.

The four-member Committee on Conduct is slated to consider the investigative report later this month and must make a recommendation that Kruse be reprimanded, censured, expelled, or that no action be taken, committee chairman Sen. Mark Hass told Kruse, Gelser and Elizabeth Steiner Hayward, the other senator who made a formal complaint.

"You may submit documents, physical evidence and suggest witnesses to testify," Hass, a Democrat from the Portland suburb of Beaverton, said in a letter Tuesday. Besides Hass, two Republicans and one other Democrat sit on the committee.

The 51-page investigative report was written by investigator and employment law attorney Dian Rubanoff.

"Kruse has engaged in a pattern of conduct that was offensive to Senator Gelser and Senator Steiner Hayward, as well as other legislators and employees at the Capitol," Rubanoff wrote. "I do not believe that Senator Kruse is a bad person, or that he has intended to hurt or offend anyone."

Kruse was advised in 2016 to stop hugging female legislators and staff members and leaning in close to talk to them, but he ignored that and even escalated the behavior in 2017, the report said.

Two video clips, one from the Senate floor and one from a hearing room, presented as part of the report showed Kruse leaning in close to a female senator who appears to be Gelser and putting his hands on her.

The report also revealed misconduct by Kruse against a House member, a third female senator, two law students who used to work for him, Republican and non-partisan staffers, a former legislative aide and a lobbyist. Those women weren't named in the report.

One of the law students told the investigator that Kruse would call her "little girl" and tell her she was "sexy" while at work in the Capitol. She also told the investigator that Kruse subjected her to "a lot of hugging" and would grab her and pull her into a tight hug at least twice a week.

The student told investigators that she didn't speak up about it because she was "terrified" how it might affect her career.

Multiple staffers in the Senate Republicans caucus office told Rubanoff that Kruse had grabbed them and pulled them in or wrapped his arms around them.

Kruse told Rubanoff he realized his perspective needed to change after he attended one hour of counseling last December.

A Republican member of the House who represents part of the same area in Oregon as Kruse, joined the call Wednesday for the senator to resign..

"It's clear after reading the investigative report that Senator Kruse can no longer be an effective leader for his district, and for rural Oregon," said Rep. Cedric Hayden.

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Follow Andrew Selsky on Twitter at https://twitter.com/andrewselsky

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Information from: The Oregonian/OregonLive, http://www.oregonlive.com