Homeless help being offered in Grand Ronde

By Danielle Frost

Lack of stable, affordable housing in Oregon has left many people without a permanent place to stay and Grand Ronde is no exception.

After Lighthouse Church Pastor and Tribal member Ken Haller heard of people staying at nearby campgrounds, sleeping in their cars and couch surfing with friends, he decided to take action.

With the assistance of volunteers from the local Narcotics Anonymous group that meets at the church, Haller decided to have coffee, cookies and information available for anyone who needs it between the hours of 5 and 7 p.m. Monday, Tuesday and Thursday at the Tribal community building located at 24702 S.W. Grand Ronde Road.

The Lighthouse Church, located in the Tribe’s Community Building, has opened its doors to provide temporary shelter for homeless Tribal members and Tribal families in the Grand Ronde area. It is open from 5 to 7 p.m. Monday, Tuesday and Thursday. So far, one person has taken advantage of the service. (Photo by Michelle Alaimo)

So far, the response hasn’t been huge, but Haller will keep the lights on and the building warm for anyone who may need it.

“It is good for me to come down here and focus on projects that need to be done, so we will keep doing this and hope people come,” Haller said. “If we can help just one person, then it is all worth it.”

Tribal Council was informed about the issue of area homelessness from Tribal members at meetings in the fall and decided to compile a survey in December to gauge the need.

Surveys were available in Smoke Signals and at the Grand Ronde Food Bank, Social Services Department and Early Childhood Education, and were also sent electronically to all Tribal employees.

General Manager Dave Fullerton said that a statement was being prepared and would be available later in the week, after Smoke Signals’ press time.

Since those who lack housing sometimes are unaware of all of the local resources, Haller has put together pamphlets of information to hand out, a sort of “one-stop shopping,” approach.

Visitors also can access food, clothing and toiletries while at the church.

“We have had a lot of people drop off supplies for us,” Haller said. “We will continue to be here for a while. We have a lot of volunteers from the NA group who want to help. … They have been there and see the need.”

Families with young children also are allowed to stay overnight on an emergency basis. Haller is hoping to expand the service to single people in the future if he has volunteers who will spend the night as well.

“When we can get it going further, then we can start bringing them in,” he said. “Right now, people can warm up and we can talk to them if they want that. Plus, we have NA and counseling available if that’s an interest. We want to give them a spark of hope. We are a blessed Tribe, we have the resources and ought to be able to help.”