By editorial board • 

Even heroes need help fighting homelessness

We hate to expose anyone’s secret identity, but it’s increasingly obvious Heather Hunter is a Wonder Woman clone. Someone should check the parking lot at Champion Team for an invisible jet.

Although “Team” is part of the organization’s name, and there are many dedicated volunteers, the program seems to rest largely on Hunter’s shoulders.

The agency’s executive director and only full-time employee, she assumed command of a humble drop-in center for people struggling with mental health issues. Then financial stresses and the forces of injustice threatened, she not only rescued it from the abyss, she raised it to new heights, dramatically expanding its variety of services.

The McMinnville City Council is proposing to task her with another mission at its Aug. 28 meeting. It is proposing to put Champion Team in charge of a program allowing homeless people to live in their cars for up to 90 days, with the consent of participating property owners.

Before councilors place more on Hunter, however, they should remember even superheroes need help.

Councilors envision a program reflecting Eugene’s, at which the point person, Keith Heath, only works half time covering a much larger community. But he has the backing of a large agency with a lengthy history — the St. Vincent de Paul Society of Lane County.

Hunter is placing her faith in a team of stalwart volunteers. That faith may be justified, but St. Vincent de Paul enjoys a huge advantage in structure and stability.

Eugene’s program may occupy only half of Heath’s time, but he doesn’t have to spend the other half being the living infrastructure of an entire nonprofit.

Hunter and Champion Team will have to provide sanitation service and behavioral control, a great deal to ask for.

The city is hoping the Yamhill Community Action Partnership will secure funding for the effort. That would be nice, but what the program really needs is a larger, better-rooted oversight organization — like, say, YCAP.

The program will be very conspicuous. If it fails, it will fail spectacularly.

Hunter takes the attitude at Champion Team that clients deserve unlimited chances. That might work at her center, but how about a higher visibility program depending on the beneficence of private property owners? 

Councilors need to think that over. At the very least, we suspect Hunter needs more than just some outside financing.

Organizations depending on the will of one formidable person may dazzle, but solid structures require more than one pillar. It’s too easy to look to rely on people like Hunter, or Yamhill County Gospel Rescue Mission stalwart Kaye Sawyer, to assume the burden themselves.

If Champion Team is going to manage a new car camping program, it needs broad-based resources. The city won’t get by with a thumbs up and cheers of “Our hero!”


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