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Homeless Villages
Where is Due Diligence?

On September 27, the Salem City Council voted to establish a managed homeless camp of up to 30 “micro-shelters” -- prefabricated buildings with space for two people -- at 2700 Wallace Road N.W. It created a backlash in the community, so Councilor Jim Lewis proposed to reconsider the decision until city staff had completed an analysis of the land and met with neighbors to come up with alternate sites. Lewis stated, “I believe we have mis-stepped, and we need to pull back on the approval, go through the process and that we should do upfront.” The Council was unwilling to do their due diligence to get concession. This would be Salem’s third homeless camp for the projected one-thousand homeless. Two have been established in North Salem.

Salem isn’t the only city putting up homeless villages. It may be in direct response to a federal judge ruling that it is a violation of the Eighth Amendment to prevent the homeless to camp anywhere they please if the city doesn’t provide shelter. Portland City Housing Commissioner Dan Ryan has plans for six managed “safe rest villages” for homeless people using funds from the American Rescue Plan Act. The first three are set to open with the other three finished by the end of the year.

Eugene may have been the first to establish “opportunity village” of transitional micro-housing. That kickstarted the Emerald Village of affordable tiny home community. The 14 units complete with a clubhouse with utilities and for gathering were built by teams of local architects and builders providing in-kind services.

Bend has started a process to finding a location for a homeless camp, but faces a lot of concerned citizens. Corvallis has rejected plans for a homeless village and is now struggling with the influx of homeless people. One homeless resident said the resources are more readily available than other counties she has been, including a drop-in center for supplies and meals.

A D V E R T I S E M E N T

A D V E R T I S E M E N T

The real question is should city governments be in the business of providing shelter? Salem is served by many organizations doing the same thing. The Salem Homeless Shelters website lists over 3,000 listings that includes emergency shelters, homeless shelters, day shelters, transitional housing, shared housing, residential drug alcohol rehabilitation programs and permanent affordable housing. Those top on the list providing transitional housing, other than the city: As a preventative for adult homelessness, the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development announced the 2021 awards recipients for the Youth Homelessness Demonstration Program. From the nationally awarded $142 million, the Mid-Willamette Valley Council of Governments Marion-Polk region will receive $3,691,542. They are a voluntary association of over 40 local governments. Members include Marion, Polk, and Yamhill counties, 31 cities, 7 special districts, and the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde.

The state also has an additional $25 million in sheltering reserve that they need to distribute. It seems there is plenty of funding and connections for shelter. Salem City Council will be proposing changes to the Salem Revised Code for the siting of sheltering strategies within the land use process. Perhaps that is the job of city government, to make it possible and easier for other entities to do the job, and not do it for them. One thing seems likely, if you make homelessness a luxury, “if you build it, they will come.”


--Donna Bleiler

Post Date: 2021-10-15 18:55:49Last Update: 2021-10-15 19:13:28



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