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Raw numbers released from 2019 Point in Time Count
Report showed 36 percent increase over 2018's count

SOUTH COAST — The raw numbers from January’s Point in Time Count came out on Monday, painting a larger picture of the homeless problem on the southern Oregon coast than previous years.

The raw numbers released by Oregon Coast Community Action counted 1,299 homeless individuals in Coos County and 137 in Curry County. This is a jump from the 2018 count, which showed an estimated 940 homeless individuals in Coos County.

The 2019 raw data reported a 36 percent increase in “homeless individuals,” as well as a 27 percent increase in “households” compared to last year.

“Those numbers are still low,” said Maggie Sackrider, ORCCA’s director of program development and integration. “Our area has challenges to counting and Curry County’s raw numbers are probably more reduced than Coos County because it is more spread out.”

The Point in Time Count is done every year, tallying as many homeless individuals as possible in communities throughout the nation over the course of three days. The count provides information to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. HUD only releases the analyzed numbers once every other year and 2019 is a year that will be reported in another few months.

However, ORCCA releases raw numbers every year to the local community. Sackrider reminded that the numbers released this week are going to be different from the final HUD numbers released later, after they have been processed.

“Next year we will try to count in more of the outlying communities,” she said. “Powers was very engaged this year and we feel we got accurate numbers there, but we could do better in Coquille and Myrtle Point.”

The survey filled out by homeless individuals during the count also saw a change with new questions being asked. Those questions included how long they have been in the community and what brought them here.

Sackrider is still analyzing that data, which will be released with the finished numbers later in the year.

Looking back at the count in January, Sackrider said one difference this year were the amount of counting stations.

“We had less stations, but we still saw an increase in numbers,” she said. “We had learned last year which station locations worked and which didn’t. We also saw more homeless folks recruiting other homeless folks to get counted.”

Some even caravanned to the stations, she added.

“It can be frustrating for these folks doing surveys over and over and not see a change, but it seemed that they understood how this affects the community at large,” she said.

In fact, one new location had two stations. Lakeside was included on the count in January and Sackrider said representatives from the town got involved in the planning process.

“They took charge this year,” she said. “We haven’t had a good pulse on that area for a little bit, but we're getting more community data.”

In previous years, the PIT raw numbers didn’t come out until summer or the fall months. When asked why numbers were being released early, Sackrider said ORCCA understands the importance of the numbers to the community and wanted to get them out quickly.

“We are okay rolling our raw numbers with the understanding that the HUD numbers published this year will be different than the ones we’re giving now,” she said.

Sackrider hopes to start the planning process for the 2020 count early and work again with local food pantries, which she said helped in this year’s count.

“The success of the PIT count is reliant of volunteers and community support and we’re happy that we have that,” she said.

UPDATE 6:35 a.m.: Fairview-Sumner Lane reopened; DEC says progress is being made
Douglas Electric Cooperative urge public to not approach working linemen

(Correction: the drone footage of the Hooskanaden Slide was done by Robert Nulph)

 SOUTH COAST — Fairview-Sumner Lane is open again Tuesday morning.

The announcement from the Coos County Road Department came late Monday evening. In addition, some work has begun to repair damage on U.S. Highway 101 after the Hooskanaden Slide dragged the road down the mountainside last week.

In an update from the Oregon Department of Transportation, ODOT and Tidewater Contractors have started clearing debris at the north end of the slide which closed Highway 101 about 12 miles north of Brookings.

“Over the weekend, the ground movement downhill had slowed to about six inches an hour, a significant improvement from a week earlier when the ground was slipping an average of two feet an hour,” the release said.

Once the ground movement slows to three inches an hour, Tidewater will set rock along the quarter-mile section of “displaced roadway and open at least one lane to traffic,” the release said.

That work is expected to take anywhere from 24 to 48 hours.

“Most of the movement observed over the weekend occurred at the south end of the slide area,” the release added.

Tidewater began work at the north end, which has seen less movement, because it is more stable.

“Slides are a common occurrence in winter when the south Oregon coast receives heavy rain, and the Hooskanaden area often requires frequent paving and patching to repair cracks caused by ground movement,” the release pointed out.

Though the storm knocked out part of Highway 101, it also devastated parts of Douglas County. In an update from Douglas Electric Cooperative, the public is being urged to not approach workers trying to restore power.

“We have run into a situation that has become both dangerous and counterproductive,” the release said. “Motorists and individuals are constantly approaching our line crews along the sides of the roads where they are working. This is creating a dangerous situation for everyone involved. In addition, it is slowing down the restoration process.”

DEC acknowledged that while it understands the public’s curiosity, it is “putting both individuals in danger."

“Our linemen are not resources for information, they are simply trying to repair damage,” the release said. “Any time taken away from that means it will take longer to get everyone’s light back on.”

DEC invited motorists to instead honk and give a “thumbs up” instead.

In an update from Douglas Electric Cooperative, crews are still working to get the system back in service.

“As we continue to assess the damage, we are estimating that roughly 80 percent of our efforts are going to repairs, while 20 percent involve rebuilds,” the release said. “These are strictly ballpark numbers, but specifically they reflect replacing broken poles, stringing new power lines, and in the less severe cases, clearing trees off the wires. The work that many see alongside the road is of course less intensive and laborious than the crews having to hike into the off-road problem areas. Easier access translates to quicker repairs.”

DEC has received feedback from concerned customers not seeing utility trucks or employees in their neighborhoods. The release asked the public to remember contractors are working with DEC crews and linemen to get power back on.

“Because we have so many contractors who are unfamiliar with our service territory, we have divided our crews and placed one member with each contractor or group of contractors,” the release said. “It is significantly more efficient than trying to direct someone in and around our 2,200 square miles of service territory.”

DEC reported witnessing customers helping each other “who are just trying to exist in these miserable conditions,” the release said. “This is a member-owned cooperative where the vast majority of consumers value rural life, and understand and appreciate the rewards and challenges that come along with it.”

DEC promised that there is progress being made.

Oregon Sen. Merkley won't seek 2020 presidential nomination

SALEM — U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon has decided not to enter the increasingly crowded race for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination after months of consideration.

Merkley told The Associated Press the large field of Democratic contenders for the White House was not a major factor in his decision, nor was an Oregon law that prevents him from being on the ballot for more than one elected office in any given year.

"I've never shied from a fight, and there's nothing about the field that would make me reluctant to be there," Merkley said.

Merkley, who planned to formally announce his intentions on Tuesday, said in a telephone interview that he decided he would be more effective running for his third term in the Senate than being a candidate for the presidency.

He aims to fight anti-democracy moves including voter suppression, gerrymandering and dark money. He said he also wants to focus on helping families by improving health care, education and access to living-wage jobs and on stemming climate change.

"These are the things we feel like we have to take on, and we have to take them on boldly and aggressively," Merkley said.

He is not endorsing any candidate yet but said he is impressed by many of those Democrats who have already declared their candidacy or intention to run.

"If you're running, you've got to present a credible and determined vision on how you'll take on these problems," he advised the growing field.

In just the past few days, former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and current Washington Gov. Jay Inslee launched their presidential bids, and Hillary Clinton and former Attorney General Eric Holder said they're not running.

Merkley expressed guarded optimism that Democrats might regain control of the Senate in 2020, girded by opposition to President Donald Trump.

If the House were to impeach Trump, the Senate would act as jury in a trial overseen by the chief justice of the Supreme Court, and Merkley would have a seat in the juror box, something he indicated he anticipates happening.

"The House has the responsibility of taking the first step," Merkley said. "As a future juror, let me just withhold my thoughts until the House has acted, and I have a responsibility to play that role in the Senate."

New renting bill has tenants and landlords divided

COOS COUNTY — Legislation giving Oregon renters protection from no-cause evictions and rent increases passed the Oregon House last Tuesday and quickly made its way to Governor Kate Brown’s desk for signature.

Passage of Senate Bill 608 came after six years of working with legislative leadership, tenant organizations, landlords, advocates and community groups.

SB 608 protects tenants who have been paying their rent on time and following the rules for at least a year from being evicted from their homes through no fault of their own.

The legislation also limits annual rent increases to be no higher than seven percent, plus inflation.

According to the group Stable Homes for Oregon Families this limit will prohibit economic evictions, work toward stabilizing families and communities, and is workable for landlords and developers.

“Passage of SB 608 shows that lawmakers recognize that renters in rural Oregon have literally been left out in the cold during the housing crisis. Now fewer children across Oregon will be showing up at school after spending the night in a shelter, a car or a tent. Fewer people will face the silent discrimination and retaliation of no cause evictions. Fewer seniors will skip their medications because they had to make a choice between paying for rent or a prescription,” says Michelle Glass, director with Rogue Action Center.

While the legislation makes great strides for tenants in Oregon, many property owners are not fond of it.

“SB 608 does not allow for equality on both sides of the coin,” Kristin Smith with Grand Management Services, Property Management in Coos Bay, North Bend, Bandon, and Coquille said. “It’s not just about rent control, it’s about putting restrictions on what you can do with your property that you own.”

According to Smith, prior to this legislation landlords could not give a no cause eviction notice within the first 12 months.

“Landlords in some instances now have to pay relocation expenses, when tenants aren’t even locked into a year’s lease,” Smith said.  

Locally, many property owners who do business through local property management companies have shown great concern regarding the new law.

“We’ve had several owners call, they’re very concerned. Our clients are very concerned about this,” Smith said.