Flooding at Cascades Gateway Park on Dec. 21. (Courtesy/ Jean Hendron)

Update 12/22 at 9 a.m.: ARCHES moved 40 households into a hotel for a week to move out of the flooded area.

Original post below:

Dozens of people experiencing homelessness were flooded out of Cascades Gateway Park Sunday after extensive rainfall caused Mill Creek to rise.

Staff with The ARCHES Project spent Sunday moving people to higher ground and providing them with basic supplies and camping equipment, said Ashley Hamilton, ARCHES program manager.

Hamilton said there are about 50 tents and structures that were sitting in sizable depths of standing water.

On Monday, ARCHES staff returned to Cascades Gateway and Wallace Marine parks to let people know about rising waters, she said.  

Hamilton said her agency hopes to open an emergency shelter for the those seeking refuge from the flood.

ARCHES estimates there are hundreds of people camping in both Cascades Gateway and Wallace Marine parks after the city in March allowing camping in “unimproved areas” to move people out of crowded downtown awnings as the pandemic took hold.

Gretchen Bennett, the city’s homeless liaison, said Salem’s emergency manager noticed the weather forecast and notified nonprofits and advocates so that people would be aware of the upcoming rainfall and potential for flooding.

In April 2019, the Willamette River flooded Wallace Marine Park and first responders had to rescue people from encampments there.

Bennett said city workers and Service Master will be at Cascades Gateway on Tuesday to remove garbage.

“That’s our primary objective is trying to get trash and waste so it’s not disruptive to people,” she said.

She said there aren’t new shelter locations, so she’s hoping people will choose to move to higher and dryer locations to camp or access existing shelters.

City Manager Steve Powers told the Salem City Council this month that he will in January bring councilors a plan to end camping at the two city parks.

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