MY VOICE: Where is the gratitude?

June 13, 2014 08:44 am

Time for a bit of history I guess. The big dust up over moving the shelter offices — not the women’s shelter — would benefit from some historic facts. As a past shelter board member, a participant in the locating and facilitating the building of the actual shelter itself and the person who came up with the name Shelter From the Storm, a line from a Bob Dylan song by the way, I think I can speak to the history involved. 

Add to that my being on the Board of Commissioners when the shelter was granted temporary housing in the county building and you will understand why I am saddened and ashamed of the direction the issue has taken.

Back when the women’s advocacy group was just starting, my husband and I put together an event at the old armory to raise money for them. It was several bands and we called it Shelter From the Storm. Not long afterward the group asked if they could use the name, and not long after that, I became a board member. 

Eventually, plans were put together to build a shelter house for abuse victims to transition from bad situations to a better life. There was a lot of negative resistance to the idea in the community, but we educated misconceptions and succeeded.

Now let’s move to 1998. I am on the county board of commissioners and we have signed a joint contract with Shelter From the Storm to accept grant funds to build a county building which, to fulfill grant requirements, will house the shelter offices, rent free for five years. 

That would give the shelter until 2003 rent free. The shelter did stay in the county building for those five years — plus another 10-plus years if my math is correct. 

Was it rent free? You bet. 

Are they still there today rent free? You bet. 

There was a lot of grumbling at the time about this as well. There are a great number of hard working, valuable advocacy groups in this county who do not exist rent free. In fact, the Shelter From the Storm is the only women’s shelter group in Eastern Oregon whose offices exist rent free. 

That’s pretty generous on behalf of Union County. You would expect gratitude at the very least.

Before anyone takes up picket signs and marches on the county because they have inconsiderately thrown the shelter out into the street, you might want to know that in January of this year “a long-term home was offered (to the shelter) in the Joseph Building once the new building is completed and the state courts are relocated.” This was again offered rent free and with the addition of free utilities as well. 

It is important to know all the facts. No one I have spoken with knows this history and the generous extensions offered by the county. 

It is incomprehensible the situation has gone so far as a lawsuit against the county. Not only is it biting the hand that has fed you generously, but it is a potential cost of legal fees to the citizens of Union County.

Where is the gratitude?


Colleen MacLeod of La Grande is a business owner and a former Shelter From the Storm board member and county commissioner.