- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 2, 2016

WINSTON, Ore. (AP) - Scrawled on the boarded window of Rhonda Rummelhart’s front door is a welcoming. In dripping, silver spray paint it reads: “Crazy people live here, be nice or go and stay away.” There are no doormats here.

“We call this the Winston Rescue Mission,” Rummelhart said while standing on the blue home’s stoop. It’s an actual house at Junction Mobile Park in Winston, so it sticks out from the heaps of RVs. Dozens of passersby stop by daily to ask for something - food, the bathroom, a coat or whatever. One or two stay the night.

“I call it a revolving door,” said her 20-year-old son, Nathanael. The two have lived there nearly 20 years.

The sign isn’t very true as neither Rummelhart nor her son are crazy. The sign just warns people to behave, though they rarely listen. Residents and the Winston Police Department agree that criminal activity is rife in the trailer park. Officers regularly break up domestic violence and make drug busts at the park, which is just off Main Street in downtown Winston.

Two years ago, a man found another man in his wife’s bedroom and killed him.

“We’ve seen a lot. We’ve seen buildings blown up and burnt down,” Rummelhart said.

Lately, the talk of the trailer park has been a recent low-income housing proposal called Second Chance Village. The proposal has been around for less than a month, but it would take out the 20-plus motorhomes at Junction Mobile Park and replace them with small, wooden homes to serve as transitional housing.

The residents aren’t fully in the loop, but word gets around.

“As far as I know, it’s in the works,” said Larry Bays, who looks after the site for the owners but he declines to be called the park’s manager.

The owners did not comment for this story.

Bays lives on the site, too, and thinks replacing the motorhomes with transitional housing would be a welcome change.

“They’ll take (my RV) and crush it and give me $5,000 for it and there’s no malice behind it,” Bays said of the people behind Second Chance Village. “I was real impressed by how they handled things.”

“ANYTHING THERE IS AN IMPROVEMENT.”

Right now, Second Chance Village is mostly concept art. The RVs are wiped away and the L-shaped lot of Junction Mobile Park is instead dotted with small, square homes like a monopoly board. There are a few trees planted, too. Buildings along Main Street that are already there would be retrofitted into offices and dining areas.

It was conceived just over a month ago by two former nurses, a councilor with ADAPT, a business owner and a stay-at-home mother. They are each involved with local organizations that try to address homelessness. Some have experienced it themselves.

“I think we all have that passion… We beat the same heart,” said Kristy Martinez, one of the organizers.

Where shelters generally provide beds for the night, Second Chance Village aims to teach people how to keep roofs over their heads. It’s aimed at veterans, homeless, low-income residents and senior citizens, who would live in the small houses on a secure, monitored campus and taught work and life skills by experts.

“It’s a hand up, not a hand out,” said Kasi Clausen, one of the organizers.

Organizers will first need to get funding in order. A GoFundMe page was started with the hopes of netting $1.5 million in donations. As of Friday, $275 from seven donations had been raised. The initial cost of starting a nonprofit was paid for by one organizer who used money from her brother’s wrongful death settlement. They have fundraisers in the works, as well.

“A lot of people do want to help, but they want to be sure they’re helping in the right place,” Clausen said.

The fates of the people who already live in Junction Mobile Park are undetermined.

Questions have been raised, too, about how the city will be impacted if a nonprofit buys the property, erasing property taxes away from the city’s revenues.

The organizers are mum on these answers and plan to hold an informational meeting on Feb. 11 at Redeemers, 729 S.E. Jackson St., Roseburg. They will eventually seek funds from Winston’s urban renewal district.

“I’M NOT AGAINST THE HOMELESS OR ANYTHING. I DON’T WANT THEM IN THE MIDDLE OF MY TOWN.”

Others in Winston aren’t convinced. They wonder aloud whether the village could become a magnet for other homeless. They perceive shelters like the Roseburg Rescue Mission as places for the transient populace to congregate, even if they can’t or won’t use the services. They feel that homeless will migrate to Winston and linger in the city regardless of whether they use Second Chance Village.

“I’m not saying there’s not a problem with poverty and homelessness in Winston,” said Bruce Justis, former Winston Chief of Police. “I’m saying, you’re going to be taking somebody else’s problem and transferring it to here… When the word gets out, they’ll come.”

About 5,300 people live in Winston and its downtown is little more than a couple of strip malls at the intersection of Highway 99 and Highway 42. People know that intersection for its bronze statue of Khayam, a famous cheetah from Wildlife Safari.

Second Chance Village would be a skip and a hop from there.

“I would have concerns with it being in the middle of Winston’s commercial district,” said current police chief and interim city manager Scott Gugel. “… It’s right, geographically, in the center of Winston. I think it runs counter to what many of the citizens of Winston would like to see in the future.”

Ron Smithhisler, a builder in town, voiced the same concerns. He said he wants to see the city grow, but a transitional housing complex and the potential influx of homeless could keep people away.

“If you drove in from Highway 42 - if this was to happen - and you drove down and you’re looking for a nice place to live and you like Winston, well what is that across the street right in the heart of our town? Well, it’s a homeless camp,” Smithhisler said. “What are you going to do? I wouldn’t stay here and I’m a homeowner.”

___

Information from: The News-Review, https://www.nrtoday.com

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