Meeting Housing Needs

Child and Adult hands holding a crayon picture of a family and a house.

The Salem City Council recognizes homelessness as a critical problem in our community. We’re actively working with partners to reduce hardships that lead to homelessness and increase access to affordable housing for our residents and families with children who are unsheltered or at-risk of becoming homeless. We’re taking a collaborative approach and adapting multiple best practices to fit our community. Because a community-wide response is required to address ongoing issues, we need your help too! 

The lack of affordable housing is part of the homelessness problem. Some who are homeless just need an affordable place to call home. The Salem Housing Authority is developing 86 units of low-income housing and works with developers to encourage construction of affordable housing.

Through urban renewal funds, the City is supporting the construction of 188 affordable apartments on Portland Road. Finally, the City Council created a tax incentive for qualifying non-profit owners of low-income housing.

The City is actively helping the homeless and working to reduce homelessness in Salem through the following programs:

Homeless Rental Assistance Program (HRAP)

Launched in July 2017, the City of Salem, through the Salem Housing Authority, committed $1.4 million dollars to support the Homeless Rental Assistance Program. Through this and other partnerships, the program links "hardest to house" homeless individuals to housing, food, furnishings, and social services. As of July 2019, the program has housed over 140 individuals. Salem's Homeless Rental Assistance Program is the largest Housing First program in Oregon.

The "hardest to house" homeless population often deals with untreated mental illness, addiction, and chronic health conditions worsened by long periods of homelessness. In addition, some face preexisting barriers to housing, such as criminal history, evictions, and poor rental history. The Homeless Rental Assistance Program combines rental assistance, intensive case management, and funding to reduce these and other barriers to success. The long-term goal is to stabilize and then move onto a Section 8 voucher for long term housing stability.

Our program is now starting its third year and we are looking for more landlords to engage in our program and give back to our community.  If you are a landlord and would like to be involved in our program, please call 503-588-6453 for more details.

Our HRAP program is changing lives and helping people not only survive but to thrive for the long term.

Affordable housing projects

The lack of affordable housing is part of the homelessness problem. Some who are homeless just need an affordable place to call home.

  • The Salem Housing Authority is developing 86 units of low-income housing and works with developers to encourage construction of affordable housing.

  • Through urban renewal funds, the City is supporting the construction of 188 affordable apartments on Portland Road.

  • The City Council created a tax incentive for qualifying non-profit owners of low-income housing.

  • Planning for Growth by conduction community-wide visioning in the Our Salem Project.

​The City is continuing to adapt building requirements to provide you opportunities to expand housing options on your property.

ARCHES

A number of the implementation items that came out of the Downtown Task Force are occurring at ARCHES. These include expanded day room space, showers, 24/7 restroom facilities, laundry, and storage. Construction is expected to be complete in September 2019.

The City and ARCHES will continue to partner on further expansion of service hours throughout the fall. As expanded service hours are added, ARCHES may take on the role of being the primary non-emergency contact for questions or issues relating to homelessness.

ARCHES staff, HomeBase Shelters of Salem, and volunteers from the homeless community, have developed a Pocket Guide for Homeless in Salem that is by the homeless for the homeless. This compact, foldable handout identifies resources, service providers, and meal locations, and is a new, excellent tool for the homeless community as well as downtown businesses. Additionally, ARCHES staff and volunteers are performing daily morning walk-throughs of the downtown corridor to route overnight campers (on sidewalks, in alleyways, in doorways) to help from service providers (ARCHES/HOAP/UGM).

United Way

United Way has produced a Mobile Hygiene Unit to be operated by ARCHES that will frequent areas with a high density of unsheltered populations to provide basic need services.

United Way is also working on a tiny home project and portable showers to meet the needs initially of seniors, women, and veterans. The goal is to build 1,000 affordable housing units (200-350 sq. ft.) in Marion, Polk, and Yamhill counties by 2030. These tiny homes will have a maximum rental rate of $350/month and an estimated per unit cost of $70,000 (includes land, fees, and construction). 

Union Gospel Mission

A new site at 700-800 Commercial St NE and 253-275 Division St NE was recently approved and a Riverfront Downtown Urban Renewal Area grant was issued in June 2019 for this project. The new site will expand UGM dining capacity from 72 to 232 seats and 220,000 meals annually (a 36% increase). It will also increase shelter capacity from 150 to 300 beds (116% increase in annual nights of shelter). It will also include recovery and education services.

​Police behavioral health detachments

The Salem Police Department has officers who are specially trained to help people experiencing a mental health crisis. These officers also work with agencies in both Marion and Polk Counties.

Low-Income assistance

The City of Salem partners with the City of Keizer to receive and distribute federal grants that fund a wide range of activities that build, buy, or rehabilitate affordable housing for rent or homeownership. These grants also providing direct rental assistance to low-income people.

The City of Salem has programs to assist with utility and sewer bills, and awards roughly $400,000 each year in grants to local non-profits that provide emergency or essential services to the most vulnerable populations with the highest need.

2-1-1 Information and referral service

2-1-1 is a free, confidential referral and information helpline to connect people of all ages to financial, domestic, health, or disaster-related services. These services are offered 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Community Development Block Grant (CDBG)

CDBG awards from the City go to local non-profits that provide emergency or essential services to the most vulnerable populations with the highest need.

HOME Investment Partnership Program

The HOME Program provides formula grants that communities use (often in partnership with local nonprofit groups) to fund a wide range of activities including building, buying, and/or rehabilitating affordable housing for rent, homeownership, or providing direct rental assistance to low-income people.

Marion-Polk Food Share

Food assistance provided through Marion-Polk Food Share and other communmity organizations helps those in our community who often have to choose between rent and groceries.

Regional coordination

Following the recommendation of the Mid-Valley Homeless Initiative, the City of Salem contributed $45,000 toward the hiring of a regional coordinator at the Mid-Willamette Valley Council of Governments. This person is responsible for planning and coordinating programs and projects to prevent and reduce homelessness with our region's cities, counties, agencies, and services providers.

Continuum of Care

The Mid-Valley Homeless Initiative is leading efforts to establish a local Continuum of Care to improve service delivery, coordination, and data gathering, with the dual goals of better meeting the needs of our community and securing additional federal funds to provide more services. Council passed a resolution supporting the creation of a local Continuum of Care on June 10, 2019.

Downtown Homeless Solutions Task Force

The Task Force included City leaders, business owners, service providers, property owners, residents, and advocates for the homeless. They worked together to identify specific, measurable, time-bound solutions to make downtown Salem inviting and welcoming to all Salem residents and visitors. The Task Force completed its work by developing a number of recommendations the summer of 2018. An implementation plan was presented to Council at a work session in February 2019.

Homelessness in Salem is a complex problem that requires long-term, committed partnerships with public and non-profit agencies and organizations across the City, Marion County, and Polk County. We thank the many non-profit, private, and government organizations that have joined together in seeking proactive solutions.

The Salem community's support is critical to helping the homeless and those at risk of homelessness.

Ways you can help:

  • Donate to non-profit organizations
  • Provide space for services
  • Serve on volunteer boards
  • Volunteer
  • Invest in affordable housing
  • Rent an apartment to an at-risk tenant

Your help is vital and greatly appreciated.