Salem Community Works to Provide Homelessness Solutions

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person serving soup at a soup kitchen

Your individual involvement plays a vital part of reducing homelessness in Salem.

​Homelessness is a critical problem affecting cities along the West Coast, including Salem. In 2018, the Salem City Council made reducing it a priority. The City of Salem and its 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.

"We have built a strong foundation to address homelessness," said Salem Mayor Chuck Bennett, "But we need more individuals in the community to step up and join the effort. We are thankful to everyone who is already chipping in."

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 launch the Homeless Rental Assistance Program, the largest housing-first initiative in Oregon. It saw tremendous success in its first year by helping 71 homeless individuals get off the street and enrolled 121 people in the program. In addition to housing, the program focuses on the most vulnerable, hardest to house individuals in the homeless population and provides, intensive case management, and other resources to reduce barriers to success. 

Downtown Homelessness Solutions Task Force

The Task Force worked with individuals with many experiences and roles in the community to identify specific, measurable, time-bound solutions that will make downtown Salem inviting and welcoming to all Salem residents and visitors. The group including City leaders, business owners, service providers, property owners, residents, and advocates for the homeless. Salem Task Force recommended solutions include:

  • Provide public toilet facilities that are available 24/7.
  • Support the development of additional storage for homeless individuals in need of a safe place to store their possessions during the day.
  • Support alternative ways of giving.
  • Pursue options for expanding downtown cleaning services.

  • Read the full list of proposed solutions

Affordable Housing

The lack of affordable housing is part of the homelessness problem. 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 supported the construction of 188 affordable apartments on Portland Road.

Finally, the City Council created a tax incentive for qualifying nonprofit owners of low-income housing.

Sobering Center

The City of Salem is one of several agencies developing a safe, clean, and supervised space to become sober and connect to further treatment. The Oregon legislature and governor have provided start-up funding for a sobering center in Salem to relieve some of the burden on the area's regional hospital and jail, and to connect individuals with treatment resources. The sobering center will open by early 2019, and will receive ongoing funding from the City of Salem, Marion County, and Salem Health.

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.

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. Under the direction of Mid-Willamette Homeless Initiative leadership, this person researches best practices and coordinates homelessness reduction efforts with the region's city, county and other local governments.

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 provide 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 nonprofits that provide emergency or essential services to the most vulnerable populations with the highest need. Salem's low-income assistance programs are aligned with the City's priorities.

100-Day Youth Challenge

The City participated in the 100-day Youth Challenge and contributed $12,000 toward this program to reduce youth homelessness in the community.

Community Support and Partnership is Critical

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. Many nonprofit, private, and government organizations have joined together in seeking proactive solutions.

The Salem community's support is critical to helping the homeless and those at risk of homelessness. Please donate to non-profit organizations, provide space for services, serve on volunteer boards, volunteer, invest in affordable housing, or rent an apartment to an at-risk tenant. Your help is vital and greatly appreciated. For more information on how you can join the effort to reduce homelessness in Salem, please contact Ali Treichel, Mid-Willamette Homeless Initiative Program Coordinator at 503-540-1625, or email [email protected]

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