Despite temperatures near freezing, a large crowd turned out Tuesday afternoon for the groundbreaking for a homeless shelter located on Lind Road between Hermiston and Umatilla.
Project PATH (Practical Assistance through Transitional Housing) is a collaborative effort between Umatilla County, the cities of Hermiston, Umatilla, Echo and Stanfield and the local nonprofit Stepping Stones Alliance.
Umatilla County Commissioner George Murdock said it was appropriate to hold the ceremony on a particularly cold day.
“It serves as a reminder of what the homeless have to deal with every day,” he said.
Umatilla City Manager David Stockdale it makes sense to have multiple municipalities and organizations working alongside one another.
“We are stronger together than we are individually,” he said.
The goal of Project PATH is to bring together services to assist individuals and families in west Umatilla County who are experiencing homelessness and help them transition to permanent housing.
“PATH will provide all services under one roof,” said Stockdale.
Project PATH is one of eight pilot projects selected by the state to develop services for the homeless. Each pilot project will receive $1 million from the state. Stepping Stones board members have also worked to get an additional $1 million-plus from the state for the project.
Stockdale said work is already under way with about a half dozen shelters already constructed by volunteers using donated materials.
Hermiston Mayor Dave Drotzmann said it makes sense to have the local communities working together on Project PATH since many homeless people are transitory and move from one community to another.
Drotzmann said the homeless are not faceless strangers. Some may be friends, former neighbors or even family members. Project PATH, he said, is for them and many others in the same situation.
“This is a humane solution to help them transition back into society and become contributing members of our community,” he said.
Cathy Lloyd, a board member and chair of Stepping Stones, said the services that will be provided will have a long-term benefit in helping them become productive members of the community.
“This is not a handout, but a hand up,” she said.
Lloyd and Stepping Stones have long advocated for a homeless shelter of some kind in Hermiston. Lloyd appeared twice in 2020 before the Hermiston City Council urging the city to take action.
“To see this become a reality is just amazing,” she said.
For more information on Project PATH, see the city of Umatilla’s website.