The Cave Junction City Council held their monthly meeting July 10 at City Hall. During this meeting, a public hearing was held to review the site plan for the Illinois Valley’s new transitional living facility: I.V. HOPE Village. With the conditional approval of this project, local nonprofit I.V. Living Solutions will soon be able to move forward with their plan to provide a safe, temporary living option for many of the area’s unhoused.
I.V. HOPE Village project manager Laura Mancuso used the public comment portion of the meeting to set the stage for the council and explain exactly what I.V. Living Solutions, the nonprofit that she helped create, has spent the last several years trying to accomplish for the Illinois Valley’s unhoused. Mancuso gave an impassioned speech about the hurdles that community volunteers have faced since 2019, when the need for transitional housing started to become glaringly apparent. She also recognized the public concern that such a facility would only encourage camping, littering, and illegal drug use amongst the unhoused, by explaining, “I.V. HOPE Village is only for participants trying to get into stable housing,” meaning that they must follow the facility’s strict guidelines and rules to work toward achieving this goal.
When the time for the public hearing came, engineer Justin Gerlitz from Gerlitz Engineering Consultants began the presentation on behalf of I.V. Living Solutions. He gave a brief overview of the site, explaining that while the property has been zoned into an L-shape, the transitional living facility will only take up the corner area of the property. It will be a fully fenced area with a common building, recreation area, and 16 small structures that will serve as bedrooms for residents. There will also be kennel and dog run areas for residents’ pets, as IVLS has noted that many local unhoused share a unique bond with their animal companions.
Rogue Valley Council of Governments associate land use planner Rowan Fairfield was in attendance for the hearing and explained that the property on Schumacher Street was zoned General Light Industrial and could provide for short-term housing, but that mass shelter was not acceptable.
Council members concerns varied after the presentation:
- Councilor Ethan Lane wondered if the facility’s residents would have access to the still-forested areas of the property. He was assured that the facility would be fully fenced and that security cameras would be put in place to dissuade campers. Lane also had concerns about emergency access, but Gerlitz informed him that IVLS will be working closely with I.V. Fire Chief Holmes to get everything up to code.
-Councilor Tina Casey Jones wanted to know more about how residents who may not have vehicles would be getting to and from any jobs or interviews. Mancuso stepped up to inform her that they are currently working on obtaining a van for this purpose, but community transit options do exist in the interim.
-Councilor Jean Ann Miles voiced her concerns about the small parking area, and was told that the recreational area had more than enough space to double as overflow parking if needed.
-Councilor Jesse Dugas was concerned about facility pets, and whether they would be vaccinated and safe. Mancuso explained that IVLS is looking to partner with local animal care professionals to ensure that all animals will be vaccinated and cared for.
Many other community members voiced their support for the project. Longtime Valley resident Mara Lambert spoke about how her grandson had previously struggled with homelessness and been in trouble with the law, explaining that the first thing he told her when he went to jail was that he “never wanted to be on the streets again.” Lambert explained that she believed such a facility, had it existed when her grandson was unhoused, would have benefitted him in a multitude of ways. Resident Ryan Leeson also spoke in support of the project, explaining that although he had shared many residents’ earlier concerns; he was now convinced that this would be a good thing for the city.
There was a brief moment of confusion when the council geared up to approve the proposal, as Lane was not entirely certain if a stipulation was required that would necessitate IVLS to continue to keep council informed of any developments on the property. He was assured that IVLS would be back with another presentation when the time came for them to implement more phases into the plan.
The council’s approval was unanimous, 5-0, and IVLS is now one step closer to providing transitional housing to the community with I.V. HOPE Village.
Also during the meeting, Main Street Cave Junction board member Dan Mancuso encouraged the council to consider a request to paint a few of the crosswalks and sidewalks on the main street side streets with bright, eye-catching designs. Mancuso explained that artistic endeavors in other areas have worked well when it comes to encouraging tourists- and even some residents- to “spend more time out of their cars,” in Mancuso’s words. Councilors were reluctant to approve this plan due to a variety of concerns, including getting ODOT’s approval, placement of art, and potential for vandalism and longevity. The decision was then made for more research to be done by both MSCJ and the city, and for the idea to be discussed at the next meeting in August.
During council liaison updates, Councilor Lane gave many kudos to the I.V. Fire District board and Chief Holmes for working hard to upgrade our local fire department. Councilor Jones spoke about how the Parks & Recreation commission was unable to form a quorum at their last meeting, resulting in board members looking over their extensive agenda without the ability to decide upon any of it.
Josephine County Library Board member Teresa Stover also gave a brief update on the library renovation project, explaining to the council that the design will be out to bid Aug. 3, when negotiations will begin. Ideally, the goal is to have construction started by November so that the new library can be opened in time for the 2024 children’s reading program.