Homeless shelters have a tendency to be a hot-button item.
Those who support such facilities know there is a need. Those who don't understand or don't care to try to understand the need are adamant in their opposition.
There is a need in Hermiston. Anyone who listened to Agape House executive director Dave Hughes speak to the City Council on Monday couldn't help but agree.
Hughes spoke to the council about the scheduled June 30 groundbreaking for Martha's House, a family homeless shelter. Construction is slated to begin in mid-summer, with the shelter hopefully ready to open by early winter.
Hughes and the Agape House Board of Directors have chosen to make the shelter a "family" shelter for one very simple reason.
"Honestly, there are a lot of adults out there who are homeless because they want to be," Hughes said. "They make that decision.
"But the kids don't have a choice."
And folks, there are homeless kids right here in Hermiston. Kids who get up every morning after sleeping in the car, the van or at a friend's home, and get themselves to school. Kids who don't get a warm breakfast, don't get clean clothes and don't get a ride to school. Kids who don't get much of anything except an uphill battle when it comes to trying to get an education.
And it's not their fault. Say what you will about adults who choose that lifestyle, but Hughes is dead-on when he talks about those kids.
They don't have a choice. Martha's House will at least give them a decent chance to break the chain.
Opponents of homeless shelters argue that shelters merely "coddle" those who want something for free.
Rest assured, Martha's House won't be a luxury stay. Requirements will include:
Residents must be working or actively looking for work (and be able to prove it).
Regular drug screening will be performed.
No alcohol on premises, no televisions in rooms and nightly curfews.
Also, each family will have a "caseworker," and residents will be encouraged to pursue a GED while also participating in classes ranging from how to be a good tenant to how to manage a household budget.
It won't be cheap. The City of Hermiston is pitching in $150,000 and the Umatilla County Commissioners are donating the land. Meanwhile, a bevy of businesses are chipping in with a variety of donations.
And they'll still need more money to get up and running.
I've heard arguments that it's money wasted. I've had people tell me that government entities shouldn't be "throwing away" taxpayer money on such endeavors.
But fact is, it's not waste. It's a wise investment.
If that money spent now can help those families get back on their feet, those same families won't be needing government support again and again and again in the future. A dollar now might save $5 in the future.
And it might mean those kids who don't have a choice will someday get breakfast before they go to school.
That's not a bad investment. That's plain ol' good common sense.
By the way ... while I do my fair share (and then some) of poking the Hermiston City Council, they also deserve plenty of credit for backing Martha's House. Led by Mayor Bob Severson, the council recognized the need and addressed it. That's what good leaders should do.
Interesting to see the Hermiston School Board capped its price for the Umatilla County Fairgrounds property at $3 million.
Word on the street is that's roughly half of what Umatilla County was hoping to get for the property. The commissioners were rumored to be wanting $6 million; the school board decided $3 million was a decent price.
The view here is that it's a fair price for both parties.
Moving along in that same vein, the money from the sale of the fairgrounds would go directly toward the hoped-for Eastern Oregon Trade and Events Center.
EOTEC is a project that has plenty of supporters in the area representing a wide variety of groups. On the surface, at least, it has the appearance of something that would benefit a lot of folks, and planners have stressed that it would be built at no cost to the taxpayers. (That's a bit of a stretch, by the way. The $3 million the schools will spend on the fairgrounds property didn't come from the tooth fairy.)
And, I would offer a few small words of caution when it comes to building an events center:
The cost isn't finished when the last nail is pounded. Facilities of that size need a substantial amount of maintenance, utilities and other upkeep costs that are annual, not one-time, payments.
We can only hope organizers have figured those costs into their long-term planning.
We received word last week that the annual Hermiston Booster Club steak feed netted just under $48,000.
That's a substantial chunk of change. In a time when school districts everywhere including ours right here at home are cutting costs wherever possible, that kind of money can go a long way in helping keep Hermiston athletics up and running.
Interesting to note that the City of Hermiston is revising its performance evaluation procedure for the city manager. Interesting because committee members also agreed that a "City Manager Hiring Criteria" document might be needed for future planning.
While the committee noted that "they hope it won't be needed for a very long time," it's still the first indication we've seen that the council isn't expecting Ed Brookshier to be around forever.
And finally, kudos to the City of Umatilla for the citizen survey that's ready to go out in the mail. Umatilla officials are serious about wanting to know what residents believe is important. That's the kind of inclusive government we need to see more of everywhere.
Know of something we need to be reporting? A piece of news youd like to see in the Herald? Drop me a note at email@example.com or call me at 541-564-4533.