Salem residents raised enough money to fund 125 micro shelters. The city needs to find a place to put them.

A Pallet shelter with the door decorated. (Courtesy/Hazel Patton)

When Hazel Patton and fellow volunteers Ron Steiner and Emil Graziani set out to raise money for micro shelters, they thought they’d be lucky to sponsor 25.

We almost had that many the first week,” she said.

Micro shelters are 64-square-foot buildings with room for two beds. In Salem, nonprofit Church at the Park runs two villages with 50 shelters total, both in northeast Salem.

Patton said Salemites wanted to be part of the solution to homelessness and helping pay for a shelter offered a way to do that.

They’ve received enough donations for 125 shelters, a total of $625,000, Patton said.

She said she received messages from people saying, “Thank you for letting me have the opportunity to do something,” or “This issue seeing the homeless on the streets has really bothered me and I didn’t know what I could do.”

“This community has a big heart, people really, really do care. They really do want to be a part of the solution,” Patton said.

On Jan. 3, Gretchen Bennett, Salem’s homelessness liaison, announced in a press release the city was considering five locations for micro shelter villages.

One is in Peace Plaza, the space between the library and City Hall, at 555 Liberty St. S.E.

Bennett said there could be room for 20 shelters in Peace Plaza, arranged in an oval shape around the art in the center.

Fencing would go around that space so people could still walk on the east and west sides of the plaza. The city would also likely need to use the parking lot across the street from the plaza.

Church at the Park’s property on 2410 Turner Rd. S.E. was also added to the list but lies within a floodplain.

A property at 1940 Fairgrounds Rd. N.E., the old US Bank, is also an option.

The owner offered to lease or sell the property for micro shelters, Bennett said.

City officials are also considering properties at 1280 Center St. N.E. and at the northwest corner of Northeast Front and Hood Streets.

Bennett said she’s “Not yet at a place where I can say this is the most viable or the least vialable yet. I want to talk to more people first. But they all meet the criteria.”

She said she regrets that there aren’t more locations outside of north and northeast Salem, but she brought forward the locations she could find.

On May 15, the shelter location on 2640 Portland Rd. N.E., called Village of Hope, needs to clear out, so the city needs to find a new location for those 20 shelters. A property deed requirement doesn’t allow shelter at the site for more than 18 months, Bennett said.

That shelter opened last April as the first micro shelter site in the city.

Bennett said the volunteers who helped with fundraising the shelters made it easier to meet the pressure of trying to get people living outside indoors.

“For me, they’re helping us get one step closer to meeting this urgent need,” she said.

Patton said one of the key things her and a couple other volunteers did to fundraise was set up two shelters on display in Riverfront Park.

She said people were able to see the shelters and go inside to learn how they’d be used.

Donations ranged from $20 to $80,000, Patton said.

She said most donations are from individuals or a group of people, like a book club or social club going in on a donation.

Some were adopted in memory of loved ones, she said.

She lives in the Court Chemeketa Historic District and takes walks downtown. “I see the impact on both sides of how there’s a lot more concentration of homeless people near downtown and in downtown,” she said. “I walk a lot and I walk my dog and sometimes I come across people on the sidewalk. My dog has a better life than them and it’s just not right.”

Contact reporter Saphara Harrell at 503-549-6250, [email protected]

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