© 2023 by Union County Warming Station

Frequently Asked Questions

 What is the Union County Warming Station?

In 2017, La Grande experienced a weather-related death of a long-time resident. A group of concerned citizens came together to try to develop a solution. We envision a place where homelessness can be a brief one-time event where people can access services and return to housing while retaining their human dignity. We can all agree that having a safe place to stay at night is a starting point as we better our lives.

The Union County Warming Station is cost-effective. It reduces Emergency Room utilization and is less expensive than other emergency housing options. We serve people who need a place to stay the night, including families with small children, seniors, stranded travelers, and our other houseless neighbors. A Warming Station is not a perfect solution, but it’s a step in the right direction and a desperately needed service this winter.

We invite you to support and be a part of the solution that the Union County Warming Station offers to our neighbors that need a place to lay their head. The Union county Warming Station has experienced tremendous success among our guests in our previous two years. Our guests can and do gain housing, find employment, and their kids can stay in school the whole time they’re staying at the station – Children in our community do best when they have a safe and stable place to stay every night.

 

 

Why was the Third Street location chosen for the Warming Station?

  • After the Warming Station’s 2017 season, the zoning ordinances for Warming Stations Changed to General Commercial, with a Conditional Use permit required. At the time we were in a church building, but most of the churches in the area are in Residential zoning We had a location in the 2017-2018 season on Willow Street, but it was too small for our needs. The home has since been sold and is not available this year for the Warming Station’s use.

  • We viewed every available rental in the approved zoning, and the location on 3rd street was best suited to our needs. Some of the buildings we viewed would not function as a Warming Station without major construction/remodeling

  • The location is right next to NEON, one of our closest partners in the Warming Station project. They have staff there during the day, which adds an extra layer of security for our neighbors.

  • The library is also nearby, allowing guests access to internet to look for employment, check e-mails, and communicate about housing applications.

 

What was the notification process to community members for the potential location?

  • We were advised to hold a Neighborhood Meeting and invite property owners within 100 feet of the proposed Warming Station. We held that meeting in early September. We had one neighbor that attended that meeting and they were supportive of the proposed location. The city never informs property owners outside the 100-foot perimeter of such hearings by mail. According to our city planner, the city does not expand this 100-foot boundary to avoid being accused of trying to influence the outcome of a hearing. The Oct. 8 planning commission meeting was published in the Union County Legal Notices portion of The Observer and Elkhorn Media was also notified of the meeting.

  • We certainly understand that business owners were surprised by the notification process, and really do hope to keep lines of communication with them open. It was not the intent of the Union County Warming Station Board to surprise the downtown community, but we can certainly understand the impact of the notification process.

 

How would you like to work with community members and business owners in the future?

  • Our immediate concern, and mission, is to open this winter.

  • We have re-instated our advisory council meetings to keep lines of communication open between concerned community members and the Union County Warming Station Board and Staff. We will be announcing dates, times, and locations soon, so we encourage community members to check the Union County Warming Station Facebook Page to find out how to participate.

 

Have you all thought about ways to mitigate impact to local downtown businesses and surrounding neighbors?

  • Absolutely! First of all, a warm place to sleep at night will reduce property crimes at night, since our guests will be sleeping at the UCWS, and monitored by our trained volunteers. In fact, a 2018 criminology study stated that business break-ins were reduced after emergency winter warming station/shelters opened nearby.

  • We will provide restroom facilities for our guests, and connect them to other services, like showers.

  • We will work hand-in-hand with our local law enforcement; and have established a Safety Committee to interface with them on a regular basis. The Warming Station Board has met with Chief Brian Harvey and is working on policy revisions as a result.

  • It’s important to keep in mind that not all houseless individuals are guests of the UCWS, and it’s also important to know that, statistically, when you’re homeless, you’re more likely to be a victim of a crime than a perpetrator of a crime.

  • The Union County Warming Station does not allow drug use in or around the facility. It’s important to know that people that are in recovery sometimes choose to stay at the Warming Station because it is a way for people to get away from environments that encourage use.

  • We will be installing additional lighting around the building

  • We have chosen a location where a community partner (NEON) would be around to watch the station during the day. We don’t allow our guests to loiter around the property when the station is closed.

  • We welcome feedback from businesses and our policies are flexible, and can respond to community needs.

 

What are the Union County Warming Station’s Plans and Hopes for the Future?

  • Our strategic plan includes research for and development of an appropriate long-term option for our community. Houselessness around the State has increased in the past few years, and we owe it to our communities to help people move from crisis to hope.

  • We acknowledge that a Warming Station that is only at night, in the winter months does not meet the full needs of our houseless neighbors, but it is an important stepping stone.

  • Because winter exposure can cause frostbite, hypothermia, increased risks of heart attack, and even death, our community needs a Warming Station to prevent weather-related health events.

 

 

What will UCWS Guests do during the day?

  • This year the Warming Station has funding for Community Health Workers. Our community health workers will help our guests connect to resources to help them in their path to housing.

  • Some guests will visit local food banks, places of worship, doctor’s offices visit other service providers, the public library, or shop for groceries.

 

 

There are lots of people that have voiced their support of the Warming Station, but how can people help out and be involved?

  • People can attend our advisory meetings, and we’ll be posting information for that on our Facebook page.

  • We’re creating stickers to show support as a fundraiser. You can follow our Facebook page for updates on how to purchase.

  • We are accepting donations on our website through Pay-Pal.

  • Sign up to be a volunteer! Trainings will be announced on our Facebook page.

  • For further discussion about housing needs in our county, join Housing Matters. They typically meet on the 3rd Monday of the month at Zion Lutheran Church at 12:00PM.