Frequently Asked Questions about Micro-Shelter Villages

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The City of Salem, in partnership with area non-profits, offers temporary shelter for individuals who are chronically homeless or recently unhoused. These micro-shelter villages provide up to 40 small living spaces to be used as temporary housing. Micro-shelter villages are an important resource in providing a safe and stable housing choice for the Salem community. 

Who is Church at the Park?

The City of Salem is contracting with Church at the Park ([email protected]), a non-profit service provider with experience in homeless outreach since 2007. [email protected] has a drop-in day center on Turner Road (near Cascades Gateway Park) and is a key partner in Salem's annual Homeless Count, the Homeless Connect event, Salem Warming Network, and it was the operator of the Pavilion Managed Camp last winter. [email protected] employs 85 staff who are offered robust training quarterly in the areas of Trauma-Informed Care, De-escalation, Crisis Response, and Outward Mindset. [email protected] seeks to employ people with a variety of expertise, including the expertise of people who have experienced homelessness as well as those with formal education and training.

What's our track record with micro-shelter villages?

Church of the Park opened the first managed micro-shelter community in April 2021, serving 98 people since it opened. In that time, 60% of the individuals have been able to obtain or maintain income and 33% of people served have exited the shelter to more permanent destinations. In the first two months, our program sponsors have served 65 individuals (38 adults and 27 children). In that time, 67% of the households that have exited the project are in more permanent destinations and 60% of adults have been able to obtain or maintain income.

Why doesn't the City use an old warehouse for homeless sheltering? 

There are health and safety concerns that must be taken into considerations before any sheltering can be considered.  Most of the time the vacant buildings require expensive upgrades such as sprinkler system installation, roof replacement, new insulation, mold and mildew removal, and video surveillance installation. 

These actions are cost-prohibitive as a strategy to regularly purchase, renovate and staff each location with the current funding structure in place. Vacant lots must be at least 42,000 square feet in size, flat contoured surface, close to utilities (water, electricity, sewer), outside of floodway and 100-year flood plain, not be designated as a wetland, within City limits, and within close proximity (less than half a mile) to public transportation. 

All of the above policies and regulations exist to ensure the safety and well-being of the potential residents of our shelters.

Why doesn't the city repurpose one of the old "big-box retailers" like the K-Mart? 

While the City has tried to lease space inside of vacant big box stores in the past, we have been turned down in each instance.  Frequent responses for declining the use of their facilities have been that an adequate exit strategy does not exist that would allow them to sell to interested buyers if the site were being used for sheltering purposes.  They have also cited marketability concerns for potential buyers if their property were to be used for this purpose. In regards to the former K-Mart at 2470 Mission Street, that store is within the FAA flight path and we are denied by federal regulations from using it for sheltering purposes.

Why doesn't the City buy property that is on the market?

The City is not prohibited from purchasing a property that is for sale.  However, it is preferred that we explore the feasibility of City-owned properties first and lease options on private or public lands second before considering using substantial funds towards the purchase of any properties.  The more funds that are spent to acquire and upgrade each site is money that reduces the operational sustainability of current and future sites. 

What services are being provided at the micro-shelter village?

The focus of our micro-shelter communities is the provision of a safe, sanitary, and supportive environment for guests to take the next steps towards housing and employment. Church at the Park has 24/7 staff onsite supporting both the guests to gain stability. Additionally, we provide space on-site for partners to provide case management, food, showers, secure storage, and transportation.

What safety measures are in place to protect guests and neighbors?

Church at the Parks proactive approach to safety for guests and neighbors include 24/7 staffing, a licensed security team that responds to non-emergent safety concerns on the property or in the neighboring vicinity, video surveillance, and key partnerships with emergency responders. Through these measures, we have had a minimal neighboring impact.

What is the cost of running a managed micro-shelter?

It costs $1,600 per person per month to operate the managed micro-shelter community up to the standard of safety, sanitation, and support that we provide. Utilities, sanitation, showers, transportation, laundry and well balanced meals are also provided for all guests. By providing responsive homeless services, Church at the Park is helping to reduce emergency system use and public costs. In 2020, a month in the Marion County jail system cost per night, per person was $65 (or $1,950 monthly/person). In 2021, the cost for an overnight stay with Salem Health is $265 (or $7,950 monthly/ person). A 2018 study out of Portland demonstrated that by providing supportive housing services, the overall savings to taxpayers was 10.2 million dollars.

Who is paying the cost of the managed micro-shelters?

Currently, the City is paying for operating expenses for the managed micro-shelters. Church at the Park and the City are both exploring sustainable funding sources to ensure the longevity of the project. There is a lot of funding needed to set up the infrastructure for a responsive homeless service system. A volunteer group of community leaders led by Hazel Patton, Ron Stiener, and Emil Graziani have sponsored over 100 micro-shelters at $5,000 apiece in the Fall of 2021.

When federal (government) funding runs out, then what?

In the last year, Church at the Park has applied for and received funding from over 10 public and private funding sources at the local, state, and federal level. We are working to secure sustainable funding sources to continue the work past when the one-time relief funds run out. To that end, [email protected] is working towards HIPAA compliance in order to bill Medicaid.

How does Church at the Park screen residents?

The Church at the Park shelter and safe parking waitlist are open to any person experiencing homelessness. As we have openings, we pull from our waitlist, prioritizing people who are most vulnerable. Key vulnerability factors considered are age, kids in the household, chronic health conditions, and fleeing domestic violence. Once the household arrives at the shelter, staff complete the intake paperwork and orientation to the site clearly outlining safety and behavior expectations.

Contact us

City Manager's Office
555 Liberty St SE RM 220
Salem OR 97301
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