Last November, community activists Deb Harpster and Doug Walker started a homeless task force to deal with the multitude of issues involved with finding solutions for the homeless in Grants Pass and Josephine County. Our first meeting was held at the Newman Methodist Church on November 14, 2022.
This is a non-partisan group made up of individuals from both political major parties, non-affiliated voters, and members of some of the smaller political parties. We hail from all walks of life and have a variety of backgrounds and skills. Some of us are still working and some are retired. We are united in a common goal.
We hear a lot of complaints that the homeless have taken over our parks, making them unusable for the rest of us and our families. What so many in our community don’t know is, because of a court injunction, the City of Grants Pass is required to allow the homeless to camp in our parks because Grants Pass does not provide sufficient shelters and/or places for them to camp. Until we do provide sufficient shelters and/or campgrounds, Grants Pass must continue to allow the homeless to camp in our parks.
Our task force includes a number of action committees, each working on specific issues such as finding locations/sites for shelters and/or services of one type or another; identifying all the organizations who do or who can provide services for, or interact with the homeless, then making it easier for the homeless to navigate these organizations; finding and training volunteers and partners; obtaining funding; communicating within the task force; communicating with the community. I am a member of the Information/Communications Action Committee.
The mayor of Grants Pass and many of the City Council members are very much aware of our task force. We are already interacting with them. Some of the city councilors are also very active in the task force.
Our Josephine County Commissioners, on the other hand, believe that homelessness is a city problem. Not a county problem. We know that homelessness is an issue throughout the county. It is not just a city problem. One of our goals is to get our commissioners to understand that homelessness is an issue that we all need to understand and be involved in. Julie Hartford, the Vice Chair of our Information/Communications Action Committee introduced our task force to the Commissioners during the public session of the January 25, 2023, Board of Commissioners Business Meeting with the following presentation:
I am here to update you on our grassroots-volunteer group that has been meeting since last November to work on the homelessness problem in Josephine County.
We call ourselves the PATH task force…Partners Assisting the Homeless.
With over seventy volunteers and counting, the group’s mission is to help people transition out of homelessness and create a safer, healthier community for all in Josephine County.
PATH’s first important tasks are to gather information about the numerous organizations that already exist, understand what they do and what they need to best serve our local, homeless population. We seek to discover where duplication or gaps in services exist and then help join forces to create an efficient, solution-driven coalition.
Our goals include locating volunteers who will work “in the field” with those who are homeless in the community.
Of top priority, PATH is committed to helping establish various facilities, allocate funds, and coordinate services in Josephine County so individuals and families will no longer need to sleep in city parks, right-of-way areas, in front of businesses and on private property.
If you have any questions or are interested in receiving more information about PATH, please let me know. I will be sure to have someone reach out to you as soon as possible.”