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September 30, 2023
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Jackson County Creates Unsheltered Workgroup as Part of Emergency Shelter Task Force

Jackson County Creates Unsheltered Workgroup as Part of Emergency Shelter Task Force

The process of taking people through emergency, transitional and permanent housing can and will continue to be stressful, confusing, and challenging. There are times when the next step is unclear, and times when individuals and families no longer meet the criteria for assistance.

Jackson County employees Autumn Doshier and Rick Rawlins, Connie Wilkerson from ACCESS's Continuum of Care, and Caryn Wheeler from OSU Extension Services created the Unsheltered Workgroup as part of the  Jackson County Emergency Operations Center Emergency Shelter Taskforce (EST). The EST was formed to collaborate with area partners, state and federal agencies, and the Red Cross to address immediate sheltering needs as part of the EOC housing strategy in response to the Almeda and South Obenchain fires. 

As survivors began to transition out of Red Cross shelters for various reasons, the Unsheltered Workgroup was created as an immediate safety net program for additional support. Simultaneously, the state, Red Cross, FEMA, Jackson County, and local partners set up the larger Multi-Agency Shelter Transition Team (MASTT). 

Jackson County Mental Health (JCMH) employees have been integral in creating these responses to better serve our community, above and beyond normal disaster responses.  The goal is to connect with survivors who may find themselves lost in the sheltering process and connect them with local, immediate needs to encourage recovery.

While JCMH is now focusing on assisting with immediate needs, they have been there to support survivors through community partner collaboration since the beginning.  After the fires, JCMH recognized that those suffering from trauma needed help navigating the transition from one stage of housing to another. JCMH has been beside those that lost their homes since the second day of the emergency shelter at the Jackson County Expo.  The community's rallying efforts brought forth 15-20 Mental Health Therapists volunteering each day. "We were there twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, providing help," states Rick Rawlins, Crisis & Outpatient Services Manager of Jackson County Mental Health.

The Unsheltered Workgroup and the MASTT can assist with community resources to ensure individuals and families have shelter options during the initial recovery stages. For example, if survivors are mistakenly transitioned out of a motel, the task force can immediately rectify that and get them back into a motel.  The MASTT process will begin soon, led by state and federal partners along with the Red Cross, and will initially be focused on Red Cross shelter occupants to help them reach the next step of the recovery process.

The Jackson County Emergency Shelter Taskforce is committed to remaining connected to all that need help and working closely with the Red Cross.

Jackson County fire recovery questions & information available at  - or call 211



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