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DOUGLAS COUNTY — Douglas County officials announced they had to remove a temporary homeless shelter on county property in Roseburg.

The shelter was fully removed Dec. 2, after occupants were given a week of notice, Nov. 25, in accordance with state law. According to a release from the Douglas County Commissioners, they were unable to reach an agreement with the City of Roseburg about the property. The shelter needed a conditional use permit to continue having the shelter at its location.

"There is no clear pathway to get to an approval of a conditional use permit," said Commissioner Chris Boice. "Despite attempts by the county to find a way to get approval from the city, it became very apparent that there was no pathway to an approval."

He added that the issue came from a separation between what the shelter was used for versus what it was originally intended to be. The shelter was installed as a temporary place for people to stay, but necessitated a conditional use permit when people began camping there on a more permanent basis. When the county staff met with neighboring property owners and city staff, however, it was determined the permit could not be obtained since land-use codes do not allow for such a facility with the area's zoning.

"There was no use applying for a permit that can't be awarded," Boice said in a letter clarifying the situation. "It was not my intention to smear the city in any way, rather to explain the difficulties we are all dealing with in addressing this growing issue and the reasons why the shelter needs to be removed."

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The shelter was set up in a parking lot owned by Douglas County and included a small covered metal structure, a garbage can, picnic table, portable toilet, a sharps disposal container, and stipulations for keeping the site clean. The county commissioners are working with the city to find a solution to homelessness in the area.

Boice decided to take action earlier this year, after the Commissioners received a number of formal complaints about safety and health concerns from county staff and citizens visiting the Douglas County Courthouse. Concerns were related to issues with homeless people sleeping, littering, and defecating near the courthouse entrance. Boice suggested the shelter as part of the Commissioners' responsibility to address the complaints.

This initial temporary shelter was a small scale pilot to test the concept.

"We are struggling with the effects of homelessness just like everyone else," said Boice. "There is no one solution that is going to miraculously solve the homeless problem, nor can we just sit back and hope the problem goes away. Something has to be done. By presenting the homeless camp idea to the City of Roseburg and setting up the temporary shelter, the county was hoping to collaborate in the development of real solutions to address the homeless issue."

According to endhomeless.org there are more than 14,470 homeless people in Oregon's streets on any given night. The study indicates that each year the homeless numbers grow by 10 to 15%. Currently only 36% of Oregon communities offer shelters for the homeless.

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Reporter Adam Robertson can be reached at 541-297-3590, or by email at adam.robertson@theworldlink.com.

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