A former grant writer at Salem Housing Authority called out the agency in her resignation letter, calling it “very toxic,” at a time when the agency’s flagship homeless assistance program is in flux.
Pamala Garrick wrote that the agency hired “unqualified” managers and that her supervisors lied to her in order to “avoid answering questions” from outside partners. Salem Reporter obtained the one-page letter through a public records request.
Garrick added that she worked without a job description and that a performance review was delayed.
“Combined they are for me a very toxic work environment which has caused me unrelenting stress for these past 8 to 10 months and is affecting my health considerably,” Garrick wrote in her letter.
City officials said Garrick resigned July 11. When reached for comment, Garrick said "this letter is accurate, straightforward, and clearly reflects the circumstances I found myself facing. I have no more comment at this time."
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Garrick’s letter arrives at a time when the taxpayer-funded Homeless Rental Assistance Program, which aims to house the chronically homeless, has seen its budget reduced. The budget was reduced, however, because it wasn’t spending as much as it was being given.
“Losing the grant writer is not going to have an impact operationally,” said Urban Development Director Kristin Retherford said. “Where we really feel the need is in capacity building — working with landlords.”
Retherford, whose department oversees Salem Housing Authority, declined to comment on Garrick’s letter itself. She did say the agency doesn’t plan to rehire the position.
“That is work that can be absorbed by existing staff and is already absorbed by existing staff,” she said. “The amount of grants that have been procured the last couple of years have not been really substantial. I think last year there was $17,000 in grants.”
Retherford said the agency is prioritizing finding more landlords to join its rental program and to find more affordable housing.
Landlords have had differing perceptions of the homeless housing program, where the city offers to pay up to a year’s worth of rent for people considered to be “the hardest to house.”
Some landlords have told Salem Reporter they enjoy helping and working with the city, but others have said they worry the population is more dangerous and the risks to property damage — and to landlords’ expenses — can be high.
Retherford said the agency is also focused on adding more affordable housing by its own means, increasing the housing stock available to the homeless people in the program waiting for placement.
Redwood Crossing, a 35-unit complex on Fisher Road Northeast, is expected to open next calendar year and be available to people earning under $13,700 a year. The agency is also still planning the 55-bed Yaquina Hall project.
Correction: A previous version of this article misstated when Redwood Crossings is expected to open. It is expected to open next calendar year.
Have a tip? Contact reporter Troy Brynelson at 503-575-9930, [email protected] or @TroyWB.