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Photos courtesy of the Lawyers’ Campaign for Equal Justice, provided by the following generous contributors: Mike Renfrow, White Lion Design & Photography, and Dreams in Bloom Photography.

 

The Power of Pro Bono:
Stoel Rives attorneys defeat preliminary injunction motion that sought to stop opening of a homeless shelter in Malheur County

A non-profit advocacy agency and a faith-based group located in Ontario, Oregon, are moving forward with plans to open Malheur County’s first-ever overnight homeless shelter after attorneys from Stoel Rives in Portland helped defeat a preliminary injunction motion filed by an Ontario business that sought to halt the project. 

     Left-right: Amy Edwards, Jacob Goldberg, Allison Reynolds

Stoel Rives Partner Amy Edwards, Associate Jacob Goldberg and Allison Reynolds, Of Counsel, agreed to serve pro bono to defend the shelter project with less than a week to go before the injunction motion was scheduled to be heard in the Malheur County Circuit Court.  A local accounting firm had filed the lawsuit on January 16th seeking to halt the project. The suit, The Nichols Accounting Group et al. v. City of Ontario et al., Malheur County Circuit Court Case No. 20CV03130, claimed that the proposed shelter violated city zoning and building ordinances and would create sanitation and health issues.

The shelter project planned to house homeless residents in up to 20 separate 8x10-foot “tiny houses” to be placed on land adjacent to the accounting firm. To keep the project affordable, the tiny houses by design lack plumbing and kitchen facilities. They are intended only to provide sleeping spaces that securely shield homeless residents from cold winter weather. Meals, showers, and toilet facilities will be provided at a nearby site operated by Origins in Faith, named as a co-defendant in the suit, and at porta-potties located near the tiny houses.  

The project is scheduled to operate only through April 30, when the weather is expected to be warmer. The project then will be evaluated to determine whether it should remain open.

Planning for the project had begun in collaboration with City of Ontario officials last fall. The project is intended to address Ontario’s growing homeless population. As many as 400 local Ontario residents are believed to be living in cars, sleeping outdoors or otherwise living in substandard conditions.

 

According to a declaration filed in the case by Barb Higinbotham, Executive Director of Community in Action, one of the co-defendants named in the suit, local residents expected to be given shelter at the site include:

• A mother and three children, one of whom is disabled, fleeing domestic violence.

• An individual sleeping on the street and with severe health issues. The individual is supposed to be on oxygen at all times but rarely has access to the electricity needed to run the machine.

• A mother who has stage 4 cancer and her spouse who recently had surgery.

• An elderly couple, ages 79 and 82, recently displaced due to the home they were renting being sold. Due to age and disabilities, the family is scared to live in their car.

After a one-hour hearing on February 4th, Malheur County Circuit Judge Lung Hung denied the plaintiff’s request for an injunction. The shelter will now be able to open as planned.

Without the pro bono help offered by Stoel Rives, the shelter project easily could have been derailed by the cost of legal representation. Thank you to Stoel Rives and especially thank you to Amy Edwards, Jacob Goldberg and Allison Reynolds for proving the Power of Pro Bono!

 

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