Fueled by the variety of available sleeping accommodations both indoors and out, a seemingly endless supply of empty cans and bottles, and limited interference permitted from police by state and federal judicial officials, Pendleton has become a new destination of choice for transients.
Local agencies vary on their approach to what some refer to as a crisis. Fed up with the attempted takeover of the post office, the U.S. Postal Service has taken the tough love approach and eliminated overnight guest accommodations. City Hall, on the other hand, has taken a more enabling approach, providing the cityhall lobby and library for daytime use, while the city Parks and Recreation Department has apparently donated the Stillman Park shelter with 24-hour lights, electricity, and a covered smoking/sleeping area.
The addition of free bus service is also an added bonus. I was hoping this would reduce the sidewalk bike traffic, but it seems to have had little impact.
At the request of Neighbor 2 Neighbor, operators of the warming center, City Hall has waived the rental fee for use of the recreation center cafeteria to provide a free Sunday breakfast program previously held at the Methodist Church. However, lack of an adequate volunteer force is currently a stumbling block in getting the program back in operation, even with the city bearing the cost of utilities.
This is where the Pendleton Enhancement Project and North Bank Umatilla Advisory Committee people come into play. Since they seem so anxious to get involved in civic and social projects, this is a chance to shine by getting involved in something constructive. These groups should find this new opportunity to serve the community a much more rewarding experience than repurposing a bridge or creating a wildlife refuge.
City Hall’s focus on the “enabling” approach hasn’t had much success, judging from the vandalism in city parks and the increase in temporary guests at the local crossbar hotel. Help from this host of new eager volunteers could really make a difference.