Sweet Home to have more public assistance resources

From the Albany-Democrat Herald:

The room next to Sweet Home City Council Chambers is unfinished and mostly filled with storage space; however, soon, a new tenant may share the space at City Hall.

In East Linn County, services are stretched few and far between.  Most people who live in Sweet Home have to travel to Albany to receive assistance for housing or job programs.

But that may soon change with a proposal to bring a service agency into Sweet Home City Hall.

In 2023, Sweet Home opened a low-barrier shelter, which allows people who are not sober and without housing to stay the night.  The shelter is the only one in East Linn County and the first of its kind in all of Linn County.

Since the Family and Resource Center’s formation, the space has been a hub, often the only source of resources for housing in the city and surrounding area.

But if the need is help paying for utilities or job programs, that kind of assistance still requires a 30-mile trip to Albany.

Now the network of available services is expanding.

On Tuesday, June 25, the Sweet Home City Council unanimously authorized the city manager to negotiate and enter a lease agreement to rent out a portion of City Hall to the Community Services Consortium.

“This will be bringing in potentially 30 additional jobs into Sweet Home as well as workforce development training and much needed services industry,” City Manager Kelcey Young said.

The agency, which serves Linn, Benton, and Lincoln Counties, plans to bring services to aid veterans as well as food, utility, and rental assistance.  But it is not a shelter or daytime drop-in center, Senior Operations Manager Sharee Cooper said via email.

“CSC plans to implement a full complement of existing Linn County adult and youth workforce development programs in the Sweet Home office location,” Cooper said.

Some of the planned services also include case management, GED preparation, and transportation assistance.

The agency would be able to provide in-kind services through its workforce development crew, which reduces vegetation that may be caused by wildfires, according to the initial proposal.

“We will use this space as a launching point for our wildfire fuels-reduction and crew-based work in the East Linn County Cascades,” Cooper said.  “ Wildfire Prevention/Forest Fuels Reduction crews will have greater reach into the higher-risk forested areas of east Linn County; and our partners with Sweet Home and Lebanon Fire, as well as South Cascades Oregon Department of Forestry, will have greater access to our crew.”

The proposed rental space sits in City Hall just on the other side of council chambers.  The space isn’t fully finished and would need to undergo some renovations.  In its initial proposal, CSC proposed a five-year contract with rent fixed at $2,500 a month and asked that the city modify the space to include a separate entrance, along with some other changes.

CSC doesn’t have a set move-in date yet, as there are still some changes that need to be made; however, the agency hopes to start as soon as possible, Cooper said.

“Currently, most of our Linn County services are housed in Albany with a small outpost for specific programs in Lebanon at the WorkSource Center there,” Cooper said.  “This will allow us to bring significantly expanded services to East Linn County.

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