Clatsop County's only emergency homeless shelter will close in the next 30 days unless there is some help from the community. Helping Hands CEO Alan Evans appeared as a guest on Tom Freel's morning show on KAST 1370 Wednesday morning to urge the public to attend a meeting set for October 10 at the Bob Chisholm Community Center at 6pm.
Helping Hands began as a program designed to help reformed criminals stay that way by providing connections to agencies that have the resources to enable those people the opportunity to re-enter society. Founded by ex-con Alan Evans, the program started small in Seaside and was named 'Thugs Off Drugs". Since that time the organization has expanded into other counties and has grown to help fill the need for emergency shelter as well as handling case-managed clients seeking a better life, breaking the cycle of crime.
Evans said that funding from various sources has been drying up forcing his organization to make a tough choice between continuing the re-entry program and keeping the emergency shelter open. He said the emergency shelter would take the entire $300,000 annual budget to operate at the escalating rate of need for that emergency help.
He said it's not just about drug addicts anymore. The emergency shelter saw a 100% increase in usage in the past year alone because of women with children who have no place else to go, amongst others. Astoria's Pioneer House closed and now operates as a safe house for the Woman's Resource Center. Evans said that since the Helping Hands shelter opened they have been getting increasing referals from churches, hospitals, and law enforcement but no financial assistance to handle a full shelter every night. He said the sad fact is, unless they have $50,000 in the bank within the next 30 days the emergency shelter will have to close it's doors.
Emergency shelters generally receive less government support than other homeless programs, and while Evans says his organization gets some financial help from local governments there just isn't enough to go around with all the needs the county has for various charity services. He says donations from the general public are critical. Some private citizens do contribute a nominal amount on a monthly basis in Helping Hands "Adopt a Bed" program but more public involvement is needed and that starts with the meeting on October 10th in Seaside.