Shelters for Klamath tribal elders, homeless rural residents funded by Oregon’s Project Turnkey

Oregon has spent nearly $125 million since 2020 to turn vacant hotels and motels into shelters through the Project Turnkey program, adding more than 900 beds

By: - May 30, 2023 4:13 pm

The Klamath Tribes in southern Oregon received more than $2.3 million to buy and renovate Melita’s Hotel and RV Park to provide housing for tribal elders. (Oregon Community Foundation)

A shelter for tribal elders in southern Oregon, a safe resting space for domestic violence survivors on the southwest coast and Malheur County’s first year-round shelter are among the latest projects funded under a state program that pays to turn vacant buildings into homeless shelters. 

Oregon has spent nearly $125 million since 2020 to turn vacant hotels and motels into shelters through the Project Turnkey program, adding more than 900 rooms to help hundreds of people get off the streets. The four new projects announced Tuesday by the Oregon Community Foundation, a Portland-based entity that oversees the funding, aim to help more homeless residents in rural Oregon. The projects receive state funding and are managed by local governments or nonprofits. 

About 18,000 people are homeless statewide, and about 62% of homeless Oregonians lack shelter, according to data collected by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Gov. Tina Kotek has set a goal of getting 1,200 more homeless Oregonians off the streets by January 2024. 

The largest grant announced Tuesday was for the Housing Authority of Malheur and Harney Counties, which received more than $4 million to buy and renovate a 17-unit apartment building in Ontario. It will become transitional housing, with a focus on serving people who are chronically homeless, families with children, elderly people and people with disabilities. 

It’s Malheur County’s first year-round shelter, Housing Authority Executive Director Kristy Rodriguez said. 

“This has been a long-time goal for many service providers in our area to watch our most vulnerable populations thrive and succeed to stabilization,” she said. 

The Klamath Tribes in southern Oregon received just more than $2.3 million to buy and renovate Melita’s Hotel and RV Park, just southeast of Crater Lake National Park in Chiloquin. The motel will provide housing for tribal elders, and a restaurant on site will be turned into a soup kitchen and community gathering space. Eventually, the tribe plans to turn the empty RV sites into transitional housing.

Klamath Tribes Chairman Clayton Dumont said in a statement that the new shelter is part of a larger effort to ensure tribal members have warm, dry places to sleep. He noted that one in four Native Americans live below the poverty line. 

“In our Klamath, Modoc, Yahooskin cultures, elders are our most important teachers. They are how we know who we are,” Dumont said. “Thus, tribal elders who are without or in danger of being without shelter will be our priority for this newly acquired tribal property. mo sepk’eec’a (Much thanks) to Oregon Community Foundation for being such good partners through the acquisition process.”

Another $1 million is going to Coos County, where the nonprofit Alternative Youth Activities will transform a wing of the Old Charleston School in Coos Bay into nine shelter units for youth and families. Local school districts and other service providers can refer families or homeless youth to the shelter, and the organization will help teens earn GEDs and access workforce training along with other services. 

“This funding will open additional doors to provide affordable, stable housing to south coast youth and families. We can’t thank Project Turnkey enough,” Executive Director Scott Cooper, said in a statement. “These additional units will provide youth with a stepping stone between emergency shelter and longer-term housing as they move toward independence.”

In neighboring Curry County, Oasis Advocacy and Shelter received $647,400 to buy and renovate a multi-bedroom house as a shelter for domestic violence survivors and medically fragile people. Oasis will partner with the nonprofit Brookings CORE Response to provide counseling, safety planning, advocacy and resiliency training and help shelter residents connect with other services. 

The four projects announced Tuesday join four others that received funding earlier this year from the $50 million allocated by the Legislature last year. A shelter at a former Salem motel with rooms for about 100 people opened in April, and a 69-bed shelter is opening in Lincoln City. 

A 22-room shelter in Astoria and a hotel in The Dalles that will provide shelter for 15 families and at least 30 adults are also in progress with funding from Project Turnkey.

The Oregon Community Foundation plans to announce additional grants in June. Lawmakers have not allocated more money specifically for Project Turnkey, though they approved $200 million in March to add at least 600 new shelter beds in urban areas and 100 new beds in rural Oregon. 

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Julia Shumway
Julia Shumway

Julia Shumway is the Capital Chronicle's deputy editor and lead political reporter. Before joining the Capital Chronicle in 2021, she was a legislative reporter for the Arizona Capitol Times in Phoenix and reported on local and state government and politics in Iowa, Nebraska and Bend. An award-winning journalist, Julia also serves as president of the Oregon Legislative Correspondents Association, or Capitol press corps.

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