Contact: Thomas Hottman
A sign at the future home of the Klamath Works Human Services Campus on South Sixth Street, intended to be the social services hub for the Klamath Basin.
The public is invited to attend a ground-breaking ceremony for the Klamath Falls Gospel Mission at the 1900 block of South Sixth Street — the future Klamath Works campus — 11:30 a.m. on Friday, Aug. 19.
New emergency shelters for men and women, as well as a commercial kitchen, and a new combination 144-seat dining hall and chapel, are part of the plans for the newly christened Klamath Falls Gospel Recovery Center.
There will be separate facilities for men and women, with 44 beds for men and 16 beds for women.
The structures will replace the current Walnut Street location once finished, although the off-site women and children's home will remain in operation.
Construction at the mission site should be underway in September, according to Berry, as the mission aims to fill the remaining gap in campaign funding. The nonprofit has raised approximately $1.9 million of a total $2.35 million construction project goal. The goal is to finish construction in January or February, weather and other factors permitting.
The overall property, known as the Klamath Works Campus, will contain a multifaceted human services campus aimed at meeting various community needs through a variety of resources. Klamath Works is a nonprofit made up of community members interested in moving individuals in need of social services toward a life of self-sufficiency. The mission has been considering a new home for a women's shelter for some time, with earlier plans to open a location across the street from their current Walnut Street for women. That plan was abandoned in 2013 as well as a proposal to move to 707 High Street.
Berry said the mission is now "working out" details of what it would take to own the approximately 2-acres planned for the mission facilities on Sixth Street, part of an overall 18-acre property purchased by Sky Lakes Medical Center in December 2014 for the use of social services.
"Knowing the Gospel Mission was cash-strapped and needed their fundraising to go towards the building, Sky Lakes agreed to do a land swap to get the Mission access to the campus," said Paul Stewart, chief executive officer for Sky Lakes. "We eventually will be granting them deeding to us the two parcels they own downtown (not the site of the current mission)."
Sky Lakes also contributed $50,000 to the mission's capital fundraising campaign and wrote letters of support for grant applications.
"We have been working collaboratively with them to help ensure they and their programs fit into the overall mission of the Klamath Works Campus, i.e., work programs, garden development, and greenhouses," Stewart said.
"The greenhouses will all be used by the Mission but will be on property not owned by the Mission. We believe the Mission's work is worthwhile and necessary, and is appropriate to the purpose of the Klamath Works Human Services Campus: To be an effective, integrated and collaborative collection of providers to help people in need.
"The name of our campus — Klamath Works — is a reminder that, as a community, we work to help each other. That's our legacy; that's who we are," Stewart said.
Progress afoot for the campus
Since the property was bought by the medical center in 2014, the details of the campus have been ongoing and are still underway, such as which entities will relocate to the site and where.
What is known is that Klamath Works, Klamath Lake County Action Services (KLCAS) and Klamath Basin Behavioral Health (KBBH) will offer services on site, as well as Sky Lakes Community Health, which located to the former West One Auto building on-site in 2014.
Molly Jespersen, director of care management at the community health center on site, leads a team in helping connect Klamath County residents with needed services.
"Our goal is to make sure people have access to the right care at the right time and to make sure that everyone has access to resources and the tools they need," Jespersen said.
"We're the bridge to the health care system."
The building housing the community health center has undergone massive renovations and is now staffed with community health workers, a certified nurses assistant, a registered nurse, and a social worker to care for needs of the public. The center also has three wheel-chair accessible vans to help eligible participants get the transportation they need to receive needed resources.
"Seeing the changes of that building already could really demonstrate what the rest of the campus either could or will look like," Jespersen said. "It will be such a better experience for them."
Sobering station up next
KBBH will also have staff on the campus operating a sobering station, not be be confused with a "detox" center, with services to help those who are intoxicated reach sobriety.
"We've never done this in this community before," said Stan Gilbert, director of KBBH. "It's our goal to really work with those folks that life can be easier than it currently is."
Gilbert said the estimated 3,000-square-foot sobering station will process individuals who are intoxicated, after which they will be regularly monitored until it is determined they have reached sobriety.
"This is not the same thing as detox, this is just for sobering," Gilbert said. "Detox is voluntary as well as rehab. They can move directly from a sobering to a treating environment. We'll provide transportation to those facilities."
Gilbert said sobering stations similar to the concept are generally funded through a "braided" model, which could include contributions from local branches of government.
"That's exactly what we're hoping to do in this community," Gilbert said. "We're paying for this service anyway. We're paying for it through a jail bed.
"This is more of a health care approach than it is a legal approach," he added. "There's significant cost savings."
Freeing up jail space
Klamath Falls Police Chief Dave Henslee expressed support for the station, and sees it as an aide to law enforcement. "This allows us to really free up the jail and the hospital," Henslee said, "to do their function — what they're supposed to be doing.
"This allows us the ability to get (individuals) the care they need to sober up," Henslee added."I'm all for it, I think this is a great thing for Klamath Falls."
The sobering station is just one piece of the plan designed by Klamath Works, in coordination with Sky Lakes, and other entities. But each will address some element of the public who may be undergoing elements of a crisis situation.
Help for families in crisis
When an individual or family is experiencing crisis, the effects can often be far-reaching and all-encompassing.
Jeremy Player, of the Oregon Department of Human Services, sees this firsthand with those who enter his office for services.
"When a family's in crisis, they're not in crisis in just one area of their lives," Player said. Those in need of services from DHS often need assistance finding housing, services in mental health and/or for child welfare.
"Having them all in one place is going to make it possible for people to get their needs met on a more efficient basis," Player said.
For that reason especially, services provided by the Klamath Works campus hopes to be a network of resources to meet a variety of community needs.
DHS plans to have staff on site but no plans are in place to relocate from their current site at this time.
"We all have elements of our missions to serve the people in need," Player said.
DHS is working with Klamath Works on a potential contract that would create a self-sufficiency program planned at the campus, Player said, with DHS staff on-site.
"It's going to be a 40-hour a week program for people who are coming in who have struggles," Player said. "They're going to help the families meet the struggles and learn the skills necessary to be self-sufficient. My hope is to really partner with everybody there to make sure that we're part of the campus even if we're not physically there."
"DHS is very supportive of the campus," Player said. "Buildings and leases are very complex with the state and so we can't make a commitment to move there, but I have committed from day one that I would outstation staff there to make sure the campus is completely represented.
"My hope is if I outstation there or if I eventually move to the campus, what I would like to see is being able to hold somebody's hand to go to the next service," Player added. "The warm hand-off."
Transportation a big need
Player sees the campus as a break-through of barriers for those undergoing hardships.
"Three years ago, I did a gap analysis," Player said. "People told me what they needed, and the No. 1 priority, it's transportation because it's so hard to get from place to place. This will reduce the need for transportation."
Sky Lakes Medical Center spokesman Tom Hottman agrees that a barrier for many is transportation.
For instance, Hottman described a scenario where an individual has no personal transportation, has children, and needs to get from Point A to B in Klamath Falls for a variety of social services.
"It is not a walk-friendly town," Hottman said. "These offices are all spread way out. Having them consolidated in a fairly central location with agencies not only ready to help ... the next step along that continuum is two doors down. How much more easy is that going to be now for that person who needs to access those services.
"It starts that individual on a path now we believe to be more self-sufficient, to break the cycle. If your life is just getting by, it's hard to make much progress."
What is Klamath Works about?
Klamath Works is a grass-roots group of local individuals who have partnered together to pursue projects that will benefit Klamath Falls.
The group initially started discussing how to address poverty in the local area in 2013.
"It didn't immediately start as a campus," said Bryan Irwin, executive director of Klamath Works, which will also have an office on the site of the Klamath Works Campus.
Sky Lakes purchased the site in 2014 with the intention of opening a sobering station and Sky Lakes Community Health. The two services happened to pair "serandipitously" with a converging need for a new space for the Gospel Mission and other social services, according to Irwin.
"This all sort of began with the really noticeable increase of homelessness in Klamath," Irwin said. "And then, what do we do to turn it around because it's gotten so large that it's really impacting the people with homes."
Organizers behind the project began to see a pattern that people weren't able to get to the services they needed because of a lack of or an inability to use transportation.
"They don't get the help that they need … so they're really not being well served," Irwin said.
"We were a timber and logging economy where lots of folks rode trains here for the jobs. Now we just have folks that are coming here with significantly more deep problems."
Irwin and Klamath Works members want to see the cycle of poverty broken through the services provided at the campus, and so they searched for a solution that looked more like a hand-up than a hand-out.
"We want to affect the people and we want to affect their children so that they do learn that there's a better way," Irwin said. "And with that different way comes more self-satisfaction and personal freedom. Self-sufficiency is a great gift. We often get caught in the idea, these folks need help … and they do, so we throw money at them in the way of services. Instead of empowering them to be on their own feet. Really what we're doing is robbing them of their opportunity to experience the joys of job well done and that sort of earned success."