Contact: Thomas Hottman
By HOLLY DILLEMUTH
H&N Staff Reporter
A hand up, not a handout.
That's what a grassroots community group hopes the concept of a human services campus will provide in Klamath Falls in the years to come.
With input from more than 100 local groups over the course of eight months, grassroots community group Klamath Works helped develop the vision for the proposed human services campus in the 1900 block of South Sixth Street. The project will utilize 18 acres of property occupied by the former West One auto center building, recently purchased by Sky Lakes Medical Center.
The Klamath Falls Gospel Mission also may relocate its facilities to the proposed campus in the 1900 block of South Sixth Street, according to Kent Berry, executive director of the mission.
The mission hasn't signed off on relocating its facility in downtown Klamath Falls as of Friday afternoon, according to Berry.Berry said he is weighing the relocation of the entire facility at 823 Walnut Ave., to the South Sixth Street property.
A proposed women's shelter and new dining hall is planned for construction across the street from the mission's current location. Relocating the mission also would move the site of the proposed capital construction project, which has raised about $950,000 of $1.6 million.
"We're excited about the possibilities," Berry said earlier this week.
Until then, Berry said he couldn't comment on particulars surrounding the consideration.
Social services model
The campus is hoped to serve as a model for delivering public and private social services, such as those the mission provides — a social services "safety net" for those in need.
"This campus is not only good for individuals, but also for our community," Stewart said in a press release Friday. "We will be helping willing and able-bodied individuals who want to become self-sufficient, productive and contributing.
"Klamath Works will finalize a business plan for the campus by early 2015, and construction could start as early as spring 2015, according to Alan Eberlein, Klamath Works member.
Eberlein drove fellow Klamath Works members Dr. Ralph Eccles and Heidi Neel Biggs around the proposed campus Friday. Walking the grassy landscape, the trio emphasized the distance between the site and other businesses or facilities.
Klamath Works members have spent eight months looking for a site to locate the campus, with the following services proposed in a conceptual plan: A sobriety station, a satellite Klamath Basin Behavioral Health office for mental health services; the mission and plans for geothermal thermal greenhouses, job skills programs, and mentoring services.
"We're hoping that by doing this, this is not only good for the individuals, but it will be good for our social service community because we will be stronger, we will be able to deliver more with less," Biggs said.
The project is still in the planning stages, but conceptual plans include a proposed collaboration center where individuals could be directed to additional social services. The group has high aspirations for the campus and its potential impact on the area.
"If someone comes here for a meal, what we hope to do very quickly is an assessment — what kinds of services do they need?" Biggs said. "The goal of our plan is to get them on their feet, whatever that means for that person.
"The site for the human services campus is one of several reviewed by members of Klamath Works.
Eberlein said the location of the human services campus is ideal for its industrial zone.
"We've got every utility that we need here," Eberlein said. "We don't have to bring anything to develop this site. It's here, we just need to hook onto it.
"The site is located next to Klamath Family Head Start, which has expressed support for the campus. "We totally support the project," said Cindy Walsh, assistant director for Klamath Family Head Start. "We just have a few concerns — concerns about potential security issues since we serve small children. We just are concerned about possible trespassing or loitering."
Terry Kenfield, board chair for Klamath Family Head Start, also expressed support for the campus, but emphasized in a letter that facilities would need to meet all legal requirements to keep individuals undergoing sobriety or those registered as sex offenders away from the Head Start property.
Biggs acknowledged the concerns expressed by Head Start staff, but emphasized the proposed site for the mission and a sobriety station would be located nearly 1,000 feet from Head Start — not within and well beyond the West One auto center building that now sits vacant next to the Head Start facility.
"Their concerns are our concerns," Biggs said. "The last thing any venture would do is try to put something in the wrong place or put children in harm's way."
Biggs said the group is willing to help ease the transition and will consider installation of a higher fence between the properties if needed.
For members of Klamath Works, the project is all about collaboration.After an attempt by the mission to move to 707 High St. last year, Biggs said she and several community members embarked on a "listening tour," regarding the needs of the community, resulting in the vision for a human services campus.
"What we heard from everyone is, gosh, we're all working on the same problem, and it's just so big," Biggs said. "So everyone (was) saying, how can we work together more efficiently and cost effectively? I think part of our hope here is that we can be very collaborative, that we can integrate so people don't fall through the cracks, and that hopefully, we can help people get on their feet so that they won't need these services."