A sobering moment about the lack of affordable housing in Lincoln County – and trying to help rape victims get the help they need.
What started out as a mild-mannered noting of a special event coming up Saturday in Waldport, turned into a gut-wrenching account of the way poverty, sickness and lack of decent affordable housing has gripped many Lincoln County families.
Once the county commissioners read the proclamation of the need for the community to pull together to solve these problems, Seashore Family Literacy and Shelter Me Director Senitila McKinley launched into a moving call for help to reverse what she called a worsening situation for Lincoln County’s low and even moderate income families.
McKinley said the number of homeless children in Lincoln County schools has now topped 800 and is still climbing. Many don’t have proper clothing or get enough to eat at home – so the schools are stepping in to feed them. She said there is a dramatic shortage of affordable housing which forces many low income families to live in their cars or in small campers.
McKinley urged the county commissioners to do something about the crisis facing those 817 kids and their families.
Commission Chairman Bill Hall sympathized with McKinley’s argument that there is a housing crisis in Lincoln County. McKinley replied that too many homes are turning in to vacation rentals, taking more houses off the market thereby making the shortage worse. She pointed out that the housing construction industry is performing well for the well to do, but not for every day people. She urged Hall and the other commissioners to help them build affordable homes.
Commissioners lamented that federal and state funds for affordable housing have fallen farther and farther behind and shows no sign of coming to anybody’s rescue. Hall said even local businesses and government agencies are having a very hard time filling job vacancies because of a lack of housing – even for middle income earners. McKinley retorted that if the housing industry won’t build affordable housing, then “the people” should build it and she implored local governments to help them.
And that’s pretty much where it was left. But the commissioners sincerely thanked McKinley and others who are doing what can for the growing ranks of the un-and-under employed. It was pointed out that this Saturday from 11-2 at the “Shelter Me” facility in Waldport (the old middle school gym east of City Hall) they will be having a big “Shelter Me Resource Fair” – their third annual. Those attending will be able to acquire prescription reading glasses for just $20 thanks to Waldport Lions Club, which also provides vision screening and helped 400 kids last year. South Lincoln Resources will be there along with Food Share, Meals On Wheels, Waldport Citizens Patrol, Celebrate Recovery, Second Home Lincoln County and a number of other organizations. That’s this Saturday from 11-2 at the “Shelter Me” facility on Hemlock just east of City Hall.
Helping rape victims get the help they need
As employee of the Lincoln County District Attorney’s Office and two colleagues came before the commissioners Wednesday seeking help for rape victims who need emergency assistance after being violated. They said that there are a number of women every year who make it to a local hospital only to find that a sexual abuse nurse is not available. Hospitals usually team-up with law enforcement to care for rape victims, to aid in the investigation by providing evidence and medical documentation of the crime.
But qualified sexual assault nurses sometimes are not at a particular hospital where a victim comes in for help. For example, they may walk into North Lincoln Hospital only to learn that the sexual assault nurse is in Newport, or in Corvallis. And to make it worse, the victim has no transportation.
Hospitals don’t budget for such transportation duties to help a patient/victim locate a qualified medical intervenor. So the deputy district attorney asked the commissioners if they could come up with some funds to make it easier on a number of rape victims every year that don’t have transportation to get to a nurse that specializes in this kind of emergency. She said, if granted, the fund would pay for transportation of the nurse to where the victim is located. She said it’s better for the nurse to come to the victim because it is common for victims to feel extremely traumatized and vulnerable riding in strange vehicles with a driver they don’t know or can feel safe with. After what they’ve been through, yes paranoia creeps in.
The commissioners agreed to put up $2,500 to start in providing transportation for sexual assault nurses to come to where patients are – a much more humane and compassionate arrangement. In the meantime county officials will engage local hospitals to forge a closer relationship in examining this unique situation.