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Jeremy Player

Jeremy Player, Department of Human Services regional director.

Chances are high that you, a family member, friend or neighbor participates in an Oregon Department of Human Services (DHS) program. We serve one in four people across our state with the goal of helping each person realize their full potential and contribute to their community.

Our buildings are not for “welfare.” They are public places where people come for guidance and services to live with safety, health and independence. We keep children and older adults safe from harm. We help people with intellectual, developmental and physical disabilities find paid, community jobs.

We guide low-income families onto a pathway out of poverty through work. We help those in their twilight years live with dignity in the setting of their choice. Families, children and community elders are the people entering our doors.

The DHS will move to a new building in downtown Klamath Falls, and we want to be clear about what is happening and why:

  • We are consolidating multiple programs into one location to provide a “one-stop shop” for community members to access all our services. It will be more convenient and allow us to take a more holistic approach to serving Klamath County clients across programs and in close collaboration with community and Tribal partners. Having the Social Security Administration office share the space with us is another benefit.
  • Our Aging and People with Disabilities, Child Welfare and Self-Sufficiency Programs will vacate three separate buildings for the move, opening new downtown spaces and the opportunity for local government to recruit new businesses.
  • We are not moving to expand services to attract more clients and we are not providing bus passes for people who are homeless to move to Klamath.

The new DHS building will also house more than 200 staff with good-paying jobs. DHS recently opened a small processing center in Klamath Falls as part of its efforts to enhance job opportunities and economic development in rural areas.

When our Klamath Falls offices move to the new location, we’ll have the space to grow the processing center and create more career opportunities for community members. Our workers will shop, buy meals, and keep supporting downtown businesses.

Klamath County’s economic development will rely on these kinds of jobs. Many people receive food assistance and work but still don’t make enough to feed their families without some help.

When they get Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) assistance, they spend those dollars locally, buy at our grocery stores, help support the local economy, and reduce the strain on food banks. In January of this year, 10,317 Klamath families spent almost $2.3 million in food benefits in local stores.

The people DHS serves are part of our community. They are proud, independent older Oregonians who spent their working years building up this community and now live on fixed incomes. They are children who should go to school to learn instead of worrying about safety and hunger.

They are working parents trying to climb the economic ladder here in Klamath, so they can stay and invest in their community culture, rather than relocate for work.

DHS cares about Klamath, and we are part of the community. We are doing our part to help Klamath and the people who live here reach their full potential, and we’re looking forward to the opportunities ahead.

— Jeremy Player is the district manager for the Oregon Department of Human Services Child Welfare and Self-Sufficiency Programs. Gloria Pena is a district manager —Adult and People with Disabilities.