Legislature says Salem can use state land for micro shelters

Oregon Senate on Aug. 10, 2020. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)

A bill that will make it easier to site micro shelter villages in Salem unanimously passed the Senate Friday.  

HB 4037 requires the Oregon Department of Administrative Services find underutilized state property so the city of Salem can use it for transitional housing.  

The city has struggled to find locations where it can put shelters.  

Rep. Chris Hoy, who’s also a Salem city councilor, sponsored the bill, which passed the House on Feb. 16 in a 54-3 vote. 

“This is going to have a real impact on sheltering in Salem and I’m super excited,” said Hoy, who’s also running for mayor. 

He said the odds of something passing in the short session are slim and even slimmer for a freshman legislator’s bill.  

Hoy was appointed to the seat in December after Rep. Brian Clem stepped down.  

Salem community members raised more than a half million dollars to purchase micro shelters, but the city hasn’t added more capacity. Previously efforts to establish new sites have stalled because of issues like flooding.

“The community did such a wonderful job purchasing shelters now we just need a place to put them,” Hoy said.  

He said the Department of Administrative Services has been looking at land parcels, using criteria the city created when searching for suitable land.  

He said DAS plans to convene a group with the city of Salem and other state departments to vet some of the locations. But it’s too early to tell when a new location might come online. 

The bill still needs to go to Gov. Kate Brown for her signature.  

Sen. Deb Patterson, who also sponsored the bill, said the legislature was taking immediate steps to reduce homelessness in Salem.  

Finding adequate locations for temporary shelters has proved to be a unique challenge. Without a doubt, this bill could help hundreds of people who are experiencing houselessness. More importantly, it would lay a foundation for individuals to get connected to more permanent supports,” she said in a statement. 

The Senate approved the bill in a 23-0 vote with seven senators absent or excused.

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

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