Umatilla City Manager Gives Update on Project PATH Progress

The Project PATH Sleep Center located at 80487 N. Highway 395. (Photo by Beau Glynn/Hermiston Herald)

The transitional housing project near Umatilla is making progress, but transportation to the related Sleep Center remains a hurdle.

Umatilla City Manager David Stockdale delivered an update about Project PATH — Practical Assistance through Transitional Housing — to the Umatilla County Board of Commissioners at its meeting March 15 in Pendleton. Three of the 25 Conestoga huts at the site have been built, he said, thanks to volunteer work. Other units such as the Sleep Center and shower units have been assembled and await relocation to site.

The PATH Project is a collaborative effort between the Stepping Stones Alliance and four cities in western Umatilla County — Hermiston, Umatilla, Echo and Stanfield.

Stockdale also brought up one of the project’s continuing challenges — transportation.

“The good news is Atkinson Staffing has stepped up and is providing a shuttle service which is working very, very well,” he said. “But as the facility grows over time, that’s not going to be entirely sustainable.”

Looking forward, Stockdale said the city of Umatilla has initiated discussions with Kayak Public Transit, the public bus service the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation owns and operates, in hopes of creating transportation to and from PATH.

“We continue to work to develop an economical solution that will meet the needs for PATH. These initial discussions have proven more difficult than anticipated and negotiations continue toward this effort,” he stated in the quarterly report.

People looking to stay at the nightly Sleep Center can get a free ride from a local cab at Desert Rose, the Hermiston Food Pod or Walmart at 6, 7 and 8 p.m., respectively.

Stockdale added the city was looking for grant opportunities to purchase another shuttle bus for the transitional housing program and potentially for additional staffing as well.

In addition to a site update, the quarterly report offered an average headcount of people who visited the temporary Sleep Center at the former Sears building at 80487 Highway 395.

The month of December brought in a total of 388 guests to stay overnight, averaging roughly 13 guests nightly.

After the construction of PATH is complete, Stepping Stones plans to move the center to a spot near its Project PATH site, 81535 Lind Road, Hermiston, where it will be open all year, rather than its current November-February status.

Stepping Stones Alliance also outlined its plans for the upcoming quarter, breaking them up into four goals. The first is to pursue contracts with community service providers to help meet the needs of PATH in the form of medical, dental, counseling and housing/rent assistance.

Stepping Stones also intends to search for grants and private funds to continue their operations, saying initial research seems promising.

Third, the alliance plans to establish a relationship with the local Continuum of Care provider to assist their efforts for homelessness.

The final goal for the alliance’s upcoming quarter is to establish a move-in date for their facility, estimated to be around early June.