Together with local housing providers and social service organizations, the City of Salem is leading a coordinated response to connect people camping under the Marion Street Bridge with help they need and to clean-up under the bridge.
On Tuesday, January 8, 2019, a team, including staff from the Union Gospel Mission, Mid-Valley Community Action Agency's ARCHES program and City Vibe, joined the City in posting a notice before the clean-up began, so people could get access to available services, remove their belongings and leave the area under the Marion Street Bridge adjacent to Marion Square Park.
Salem City Manager Steve Powers said, "The City's chief priority is to keep all members of the community safe, including the homeless. Conditions under the bridge have deteriorated to the point that it is no longer safe for people to be there."
The City has received reports of crime, vermin, and activities that violate Salem Revised Code. These behaviors, and the unsafe and unsanitary conditions in the area, confirm last year's pilot effort to provide a single location for food distribution to the homeless was not successful. The City and its partners remind residents and local organizations who distribute food to do so in a manner that complies with state, county and city requirements. They are also encouraged to donate to established service organizations such as the Union Gospel Mission and the Mid-Valley Community Action Agency's ARCHES programs located in the blocks adjacent to Marion Square Park. Working together in this way will help maximize the effectiveness of charitable efforts.
Reducing homelessness is a priority for the Salem City Council. Homelessness in Salem is a complex problem that requires long-term, committed partnerships with public and nonprofit agencies and organizations across the City, Marion County, and Polk County. The City of Salem and its nonprofit, private, and government organizations partners are working to lessen the hardships that lead to homelessness of residents and families with children, and to increase access to affordable housing. Salem is taking a collaborative approach and adapting best practices to fit our community. On January 23, the City Council will hold a Work Session on policy priorities for the coming year. The City Council will discuss moving forward with the Downtown Homeless Task Force recommendations, including more public toilets, and more storage space for the personal possessions of those experiencing homelessness.
Those looking to join the effort to address homelessness in Salem are encouraged to volunteer with local social services organizations such as the Union Gospel Mission and Mid-Valley Community Action Agency.