Jayne Downing, executive director of the Center for Hope and Safety, celebrates the groundbreaking for Hope Plaza Thursday in downtown Salem (Rachel Alexander/Salem Reporter)
Soon after Sara Brennan began working at Salem’s domestic violence nonprofit in 2006, she tried to apply for a credit card.
The Center for Hope and Safety was rejected for a $500 line of credit, she said, because the shoestring organization had no credit history and just six employees.
On Thursday, over a dozen employees clad in purple construction hats celebrated the groundbreaking for Hope Plaza – a $14 million, three-story apartment complex that will provide affordable long-term housing to domestic violence survivors and retail space in downtown Salem.
“To think that we would be now moving into a project with so many zeros behind it is pretty spectacular,” Brennan said at the ceremony.
Dozens of local elected officials and civic leaders gathered to celebrate the project, which has received millions in funding from federal, state and local government and private foundations, allowing construction to begin with no debt.
Among its supporters were state Rep. Raquel Moore-Green and Sen. Deb Patterson, who spoke Thursday about a Christmas Eve 40 years ago when a young mother showed up on her doorstep with her infant wearing only a diaper because her partner had locked her out of the house following a violent outburst.
“When it’s Christmas Eve and someone shows up saying there’s no room in the inn … you find room,” Patterson said. Gesturing to the Center’s employees, she continued, “You have been finding room at the inn for years and what you’re building here will be finding room so that no woman and no child in an icy wind, cold night … can ever be turned away.”
Construction was expected to begin this month, but Jayne Downing, the Center’s executive director, said it’s still likely a few months out because of some remaining requirements they need to meet before moving forward.
Downing teared up as she spoke to supporters and her employees.
“Thank you to an incredible staff that works so hard every day,” she said. Though the project will mean more work for the Center, Downing said, “All I ever hear from them is ‘I’m so glad we’re doing more for survivors.'”
Staff from Salem’s Center for Hope and Safety at the Hope Plaza groundbreaking on Thursday (Rachel Alexander/Salem Reporter)