Cars in the parking area at Cascades Gateway Park on Wednesday, June 2, 2021. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)
At least two dozen people will have a safe place to sleep in their cars or RVs at night as a city and nonprofit parking lot are turned into managed sites for people experiencing homelessness.
A city parking lot, located in the 500 block of Commercial Street across from City Hall, will provide electricity, toilets, potable water, case management, laundry, showers and storage for 16 cars or RVs. The priority will be people who have dependents.
Gretchen Bennett, the city’s homelessness liaison, last month said the site would be run by Church at the Park with staff and security onsite.
Another site, located at Catholic Community Services on 3737 Portland Road N.E., will have space for eight vehicles.
Both locations will always have staff onsite. The locations will open between July 19 and 30 depending on how long it takes to put up fencing, said DJ Vincent, pastor at Church at the Park.
Salem’s budget includes $540,000 in federal funds to turn the lots into safe parking.
“While no one should have to live in a car, this approach to sheltering can help families and individuals get connected to services in a secure environment with consistent access to onsite toilets, storage, garbage removal, laundry, showers, and around -the- clock security assistance,” a city release about the project states.
City Manager Steve Powers said the homelessness crisis requires both short- and long-term solutions to help people stabilize.
"We are thankful for additional state and federal funds that along with city funds and community partners will increase shelter capacity, launch a navigation center, mobile crisis response unit, and expand affordable supportive housing developments,” Powers said in a prepared statement.