Rachel Miller and Matt Herbert walk into a field near Interstate 5 for the annual count of Salem's unsheltered on Jan. 6, 2021. (Saphara Harrell/Salem Reporter)

Salem is about to get millions to address homelessness as this week $5.5 million in federal grant funding was announced by the Oregon Housing and Community Services to create emergency shelter, pay for street outreach and rapidly rehouse people.

The money is part of a federal coronavirus relief package passed last March.

About half of the money will go toward emergency shelters provided by seven different agencies expected to serve 2,500 people, according to grant application from the Mid-Willamette Valley Homeless Alliance. 

Margaret Salazar, executive director of OHCS, said during the pandemic too many Oregonians have become homeless.

“This funding is historic because it will help rebuild lives, and because we are partnering with an array of diverse service providers that have trusted relationships with Oregon’s communities of color, so we can reach people hardest hit by the crisis,” she said in a statement.

Locally, the funding will pay for four day shelters, nearly 4,000 motel stays for 316 people, the pallet structures on Portland Road and a women’s shelter that operates year-round.

About $1.1 million will pay for a project which aims to turn a former hotel into shelter for 500 people.

Agencies involved include Center for Hope & Safety, Family Promise, Mid-Willamette Valley Community Action Agency, Sable House, Salem Housing Authority, Sheltering Silverton, Church at the Park, St. Francis Shelter, Ray of Hope Today in Woodburn and United Way of the Mid-Willamette Valley.

The agencies involved learned of the funds this week, and many are still finalizing contracts and consulting with their boards on specific plans and hiring decisions. 

According to grant documents, four projects will help with short-term rental assistance and connecting unhoused people with a housing navigator to rapidly rehouse 106 families; one project will provide housing for 150 people experiencing chronic homelessness; and three projects will provide housing for another 130.

About 11 new staff will be hired by the various agencies for street outreach to go into encampments to distribute community donations and get people connected to services.

About 3,000 unsheltered people are expected to be served through the expanded street outreach.

Jan Calvin of the Mid-Willamette Valley Homeless Alliance said the funds will cover the cost of about 80 employees across local homeless service agencies. Some agencies will need to recruit new staff.

About $500,000 will go toward data collection, expanding the system’s capacity to capture additional clients and services.

“It gives us a better picture of who’s getting served,” Calvin said.

Oregon Housing and Community Services distributed the money allocated by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development through a competitive process for the first time in state history.

Of 58 applicants, 36 were chosen. 

Contact reporter Saphara Harrell at 503-549-6250, [email protected]

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