The Salem City Council on Monday approved a resolution which created a managed camp on Portland Road. (Saphara Harrell/Salem Reporter)

Expect to see a row of small, white buildings when traveling on Portland Road in the coming weeks. It’s the city’s latest effort to address the homelessness crisis through a temporary managed camp at 2640 Portland Road N.E.

The Salem City Council on Monday evening unanimously approved a resolution that would establish a managed campsite with 20 single-room buildings called “Pallet structures.” They are easily assembled and can host two people. There will also be space in the parking lot for car camping.

Church at the Park, a social services group, will manage the camp on Portland Road, that’ll have space for up to 48. The arrangement was approved more than a week before a temporary shelter at the Oregon State Fairgrounds Pavilion will close. 

The building onsite at Portland Road is currently being used as a warming shelter and is set to close next week. Gretchen Bennett, Salem’s homelessness liaison, said the city is waiting to find out if using the building is allowable as well.

The resolution authorizing the camp is set to end on Oct. 26.

During Monday’s meeting, councilors said they were impressed with how Church at the Park has run the fairgrounds shelter.

Mayor Chuck Bennett said the Portland Road site needs to be managed as well, unlike the two city parks where people have been allowed to camp because of Covid.

“That is so totally out of control because we just didn’t set it up as a managed situation,” Bennett said.  

Councilor Jose Gonzalez said members of his neighborhood association, Northgate Neighborhood, want to be kept in the loop about planned shelters and the impacts on the neighbors as people travel from the north Salem area to downtown, where most social services are.

He said his neighborhood association is asking Church at the Park to prioritize the most vulnerable – families, women and people with children – for the new site.

Councilor Jim Lewis said the city could use 40 more of those managed campgrounds.  

“Even though it may take one at a time, it’s going to take more strength on this council to get more of them in the city. And we need to be focused on that,” Lewis said.

The proposal was a last-minute addition to the council agenda. While councilors were in support of the temporary site, they stressed the need for more permanent solutions.

Have a tip? Contact reporter Saphara Harrell at 503-549-6250, [email protected]

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