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75,000 nights of housing

Jackson County plans to spend more than $3 million to prevent homelessness and help those already struggling with a lack of housing.

The money will provide support services and the equivalent of more than 75,000 nights of housing, county officials said.

Officials said the nearly $3.1 million included in the upcoming budget continues the county’s efforts to address homelessness. About half of the money comes from the county’s general fund, with the rest coming from other sources, including the Oregon Health Authority, Oregon Department of Corrections and Oregon Criminal Justice Commission.

The Jackson County Budget Committee, made up of three residents and the county’s three elected commissioners, voted unanimously to recommend approval of a nearly $383.6 million budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1. The commissioners need to officially adopt the budget in June, but all three expressed support for the spending to address homeless issues.

“There is so much detail in this work, and it’s hard to share all of the highlights, but for me this year I was very proud of the continued commitment to those that are close to or are experiencing homelessness in our county,” said Commissioner Bob Strosser.

With mental illness often contributing to homelessness, the county is supporting adult foster beds for people with severe and persistent mental illness, housing help and support services for people transitioning out of the Oregon State Hospital, transitional housing for people with severe mental illness and outpatient and crisis services.

Aid for senior citizens, disabled people, families and those with low incomes includes rental assistance, food and legal help to fight unfair housing practices. The county has teamed with local nonprofit groups on those efforts.

Jackson County is providing transitional housing, mental health and addiction treatment, employment services and food to help those involved in the criminal justice system become productive members of the community again.

“Jackson County has always realized the important role it plays as it pertains to homelessness. With prioritizing public health and safety for many years, ensuring that there is support for the homeless has been a consistent decision for the Budget Committee,” Commissioner Colleen Roberts said.

Jackson County is also funding efforts to reach out to homeless people camped along the Bear Creek Greenway, has launched regular Greenway clean-up efforts by community justice work crews, and is backing patrols along the path for walkers, joggers and cyclists.

County Administrator Danny Jordan said the work crews are doing outstanding work cleaning up litter from homeless camps and clearing blackberry bushes and other vegetation that encroaches on the path.

The three resident members of the Budget Committee are Craig Morris, April Sevcik and Dick Rudisile, Sr. The three volunteers spend months helping to map out budget priorities and reviewing proposed spending.

Rudisile, a long-time member who is serving his last year on the committee, was honored by county officials for helping shepherd the county through lean years and building it back up to a position of financial strength.

“There are so many ways we are helping citizens when they need us most,” said Commissioner Rick Dyer. “When you look at the fine details, like our effort for those facing homelessness, you realize that the decisions we make as the county Budget Committee are making our county a better place to live for everyone.”

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Vickie Aldous at 541-776-4486 or valdous@rosebudmedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @VickieAldous.

Jackson County is committing more than $3 million to address homelessness. Jamie Lusch/Mail Tribune