Local organizations in line for $10 million for more action on homelessness

Services in Marion and Polk County will receive $10.4 million in state funding to house hundreds of people and add dozens of shelter beds in the community, Gov. Tina Kotek announced on Monday.

The funding comes from a nearly $200 million statewide housing package for local homeless emergency plans, the Oregon Legislature approved in January. Monday’s announcement detailed $80 million going to its most populated regions

Regional groups will be dispersing the money. In the Salem area, the Mid-Willamette Valley Homeless Alliance formed the group which includes 25 local elected officials and representatives of service organizations.

The funding will help people and families settle into permanent housing in 158 homes while providing them community services. The money also will add 79 shelter beds in Salem and Marion and Polk counties.

Mayor Chris Hoy, vice chair of the alliance’s board, said that those numbers serve as goals the region will have to meet once the money is awarded.

The alliance is reviewing proposals from providers and will notify applicants of their decisions on Friday, April 14, according to its request for proposals document.

“We have to approve those applications that we believe will meet those goals,” Hoy said on Tuesday.

The alliance asked for projects to either add 80 new shelter beds or support 150 unsheltered households by next January.

New shelter spaces must be low barrier, meaning they should not require people to be sober, and can accommodate people with diverse needs, including pet owners and families.

The housing programs would help people with rent or deposits, and supportive services like navigating health care benefits, with the goal of enabling people to be able to make rent once the financial assistance ends.

The alliance’s regional plan submitted to the Oregon Housing and Community Services Department on March 31 said that mental health care and services were the most urgent needs of the community, followed by emergency shelter and substance use issues. The group received $4 million less than it requested.

Over 1,500 people in Marion and Polk counties are homeless on any given night, according to a 2022 needs analysis by the homeless alliance.

The analysis found that out of the 4,300 homeless residents assessed, 44% reported having a mental health disorder and 44% reported a history of domestic violence.

The region needs over 2,000 additional rental units to help homeless families transition to more permanent housing, and over 900 units of permanent supportive housing, the analysis said.

Salem has several housing projects opening this year, including affordable apartments with support services at Yaquina Hall, which opens May 1. Developers also plan to house 900 families in south Salem by next summer.

“I am thrilled for the governor’s commitment to helping us end homelessness. And this will go a long ways in helping our region advance our efforts to get people housed,” Hoy said. “I’m really excited about this process and the resources that are going to be coming to the Marion-Polk region.”

Contact reporter Abbey McDonald: [email protected] or 503-704-0355.

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Abbey McDonald joined the Salem Reporter in 2022. She previously worked as the business reporter at The Astorian, where she covered labor issues, health care and social services. A University of Oregon grad, she has also reported for the Malheur Enterprise, The News-Review and Willamette Week.