Discussions about warming shelters for Pendleton homeless are a twin bill in the city Thursday night.

A city councilwoman is hosting a neighborhood discussion on the warming station that opened Nov. 15 at 116 S.E. 12th St. At the same time, Pendleton city planners are scheduled to consider a permit for a second, standby homeless warming station.

The Pendleton Warming Station Work Group is asking the city to allow it to use the Bethel Church Assembly of God, 1109 Airport Road, in case its 12th Street station becomes crowded. The planning commission meets 7 p.m. Thursday at city hall, 500 S.W. Dorion Ave.

Sandra Kimbrow, warming station chairwoman and pastor of First United Methodist Church, said the station would likely remain at the 12th Street location. Pendleton City Council approved a conditional-use permit for that station Nov. 1.

“We felt like we’d rather be safe than sorry and have a back-up location just in case,” said Kimbrow. She started the application process for Bethel Church before the city approved the 12th Street location. 

Ward I Councilwoman Becky Marks will host a neighborhood meeting 6:30 p.m. Thursday at Washington Elementary School, 1205 S.E. Byers. Ave., for residents to talk about the nearby 12th Street station.

Marks hopes the meeting is a positive discussion, rather than a complaint session. 

“I’ve heard more positive than negative,” she said. 

Pendleton Police Officer Ryan Lehnert will be on hand, and Marks also invited warming station volunteers to speak. 

“I think people should feel less concerned after the meeting Thursday,”?Marks said.

Organizers would turn to Bethel Church in case of increased demand, Kimbrow said, but that’s unlikely at the moment; five people at most have come to the station thus far. But she said the station is slowly gaining the trust of homeless people in the area, some of whom initially balked because of a police presence and a 6 a.m. exit policy.

“Every time we’ve gained a few people,” she said.

The warming station, a two-story house once used as a Fraternal Order of Police lodge, is available for the homeless whenever the thermometer dips below freezing.

Kimbrow said she believes the station group has done everything possible to address safety concerns, including setting station hours from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. so homeless people are gone by the time children arrive for school.

She thinks concerns about the station have more to do with more general fears about homeless people. Homeless people already congregate a block away from Washington Elementary on the Umatilla River levee and in a nearby trailer park. 

“At least when they’re in the station they’re supervised, they’re not bothering anybody in the neighborhood, and they’re safe and warm,”?she said.

Pendleton City Planner Evan MacKenzie said that once issued, the use permit cannot be revoked by the city. 

“Anybody can complain,” he said. “But they’d have to complain that the station’s operating outside of what they were supposed to do.”

The station has been closed recently due to warmer weather. Kimbrow expects it to open again with the cold snap expected in the next few days. She’s grateful for how many donations it’s received, and said she just needs a few more volunteers to take overnight shifts. 

“We’ve been truly blessed with community support,”?she said.

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