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Despite Setbacks And Theft, Coos Bay's Coalbank Village Opens Doors To Homeless

Devereaux Center's Facebook Page (used with permission)

A new housing project for homeless people has opened up in Coos Bay: Coalbank Village.  

The units are compact and secure spaces for either couples or individuals.  Tara Johnson, executive director of the non-profit Devereaux Center, said she and Coos Bay officials have worked to get this project off the ground to help the estimated 1200 to 1500 homeless people in the area.

Johnson told KLCC that with Coalbank Village now open, she’s enjoyed seeing how happy people are to have a place to call home.

Credit Devereaux Center's Facebook Page (used with permission)
Man inside interior of one Coalbank Village's newly-made units.

“One gentleman, keeps saying over and over, “Oh my goodness, I can’t believe I can live in something so nice.”

"The other lady I spoke to, she can’t stop smiling. We’re really excited for her particularly because she has some pretty severe health issues. So we’re hopeful that with some solid case management, that we can get her the health care that she needs.” 

Oregon Coast Community Action helped cover the shelters and startup operational costs, with some COVID-19 related emergency shelter grants, amounting to half a million dollars.

But the new transitional housing project has already been the target of theft and sabotage.

When organizers of the 19-unit Coalbank Village site came to greet their first arrivals June 24th, they found their power meter and power supply board gone, and conduit damaged. The estimated cost was $20,000.

Johnson said she was devastated.

“Then, three hours later, one of my employees said “C’mon, Tara.” And he spun me slowly in a circle and said, ‘Look at this. See that 50 people are here, because they believe in the work that we’re doing.’ So, it was initially a heartbreaking day, but it ended with huge joy and celebration.”

Credit Devereaux Center's Facebook Page (used with permission)
The missing electrical panels.

The volunteers helped homeless people move into Coalbank, while a local church donated $1,000.

Johnson says insurance will cover the damages, and she’s just happy they’ve not let the incident ruin their work.

Tips on the theft and vandalism can be called in to Coos Bay Police Detective LaBrousse, at 541-269-8911, ext. 1 (dispatch.)

Copyright 2021, KLCC. 

Brian Bull joined the KLCC News Team in June 2016. In his 25+ years as a public media journalist, he's worked at NPR, Twin Cities Public Television, South Dakota Public Broadcasting, Wisconsin Public Radio, and ideastream in Cleveland. His reporting has netted dozens of accolades, including four national Edward R. Murrow Awards (19 regional), the Ohio Associated Press' Best Reporter Award, Best Radio Reporter from the Native American Journalists Association, and the PRNDI/NEFE Award for Excellence in Consumer Finance Reporting.