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Grants Pass approves permit for new homeless shelter site

The City Hall in Grants Pass.
Roman Battaglia
The City Hall sign in Grants Pass.

The site will be run by the nonprofit Mobile Integrative Navigation Team, or MINT.

On Wednesday, the Grants Pass City Council unanimously approved a special use permit for a new shelter site for homeless people.

The site, at 218 Redwood Highway on the south side of the city, will have up to 15 prefabricated shelters, called pallet houses, to be used as transitional housing for homeless people, as well as a portable restroom and shower.

People who are medically fragile will be prioritized to live there. One of two existing buildings on the site will also be converted into a resource center.

Cassy Leach is the executive director of MINT, which provides outreach and medical services to homeless people in Josephine County. She said through the outreach the group does each week, they’ve gotten people into shelter and medically treated dozens of individuals in the month of March alone.

"So that’s just what we do on Thursdays for a couple hours in the park. Being able to do that five days a week in that building with amazing staff that we already have identified is gonna be pretty exciting," she said.

The site is less than half an acre, in a commercial zone and is privately owned. MINT has a one-year lease agreement with the owner.

The site will have surveillance cameras and security personnel.

The Rogue River as seen from Grants Pass's Riverside Park, where people have camped.
Jane Vaughan
The Rogue River as seen from Grants Pass's Riverside Park, where people have camped.

"It really is a perfect location for us to be able to provide the same services we do on Thursday but in a way that is less friction-inducing and more. We’ll be able to do it more because we’ll have a building, right? So we’re really excited about that," Leach told the City Council on Wednesday.

MINT operated an emergency warming shelter on the site this winter.

The City Council's decision comes as a case about criminalizing homelessness in Grants Pass is headed to the U.S. Supreme Court. The city’s ordinances regulating homelessness were previously found to be unconstitutional. The case will be heard by the Supreme Court on Monday.

MINT still has to have its site plan review approved in the future, which includes things like utilities and trash collection. The special use permit lasts for four years, and applicants can then reapply.

"I think this is a step in the right direction," Councilor Rick Riker said at Wednesday's meeting.

Seven residents spoke in support of the proposal. No one spoke in opposition.

The City Council was also scheduled to discuss an ordinance that would regulate humanitarian groups helping homeless people living in city parks, but that item was moved into executive session at a later date due to advice from the city's legal counsel.

The amendment to the city’s municipal code would require charitable nonprofits to register with the city if they’re distributing food or clothing in parks. This change was previously approved by the council, but was then vetoed by the mayor.

Jane Vaughan is a regional reporter for Jefferson Public Radio. Jane began her journalism career as a reporter for a community newspaper in Portland, Maine. She's been a producer at New Hampshire Public Radio and worked on WNYC's On The Media.