The Hope Plaza site at 450 Church Street Northeast in Salem on Friday, July 9, 2021. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)

A new housing project for domestic violence survivors in Salem will be able to break ground in the spring, thanks to millions of dollars in funding from the Oregon Legislature.

Hope Plaza, a three-story complex planned for central Salem, aims to help those who have lived through domestic abuse and human trafficking. 

It’s a project of the Center for Hope and Safety, a Salem nonprofit, which purchased the land for the development in 2015. 

Since then, it’s weathered Covid, turns at the state legislature for funding and lines for federal money and grants. But in the spring of 2022, the fruits of its labor will come to bear. 

“We didn’t know when we would be able to start,” said Center for Hope and Safety Executive Director Jayne Downing. “We can break ground now as soon as the money from the legislature becomes available next spring.”

During the 2021 session, the Oregon legislators awarded Hope Plaza $7.5 million, up from a previously promised $2.5 million.

“With the extra money coming into the state, they were looking around for projects that were ready to be built and we made the case,” Downing said. 

The approval of funds came with the support of Senate President Peter Courtney who shares a personal tie to the new building. 

The development will sit in the footprint of the now demolished Salem Greyhound bus station–the same bus station Courtney passed through in 1969 when he came to town for a law clerk job. 

Courtney, who said the project struck a chord with him, put forth the original funding request in 2020. It died due to a Republican walkout. 

“This really is a crisis need because, in the middle of the night… they’ve got to get out, they’ve got to get away from a very dangerous situation,” he said. “We’ve gotta have a place for them.”

 Downing agrees. 

“Research shows overwhelmingly that if you’re able to help a victim of domestic violence get supports underneath them, they can be incredibly successful in rebuilding their lives,” she said.

Four in 10 homeless Salem women and nearly one-quarter of all homeless people reported they were fleeing domestic violence, according to client data by ARCHES Project staff from October 2016 through the end of 2018.

Three-quarters of homeless women said they have experienced domestic violence at some point in their lives.

The Center for Hope and Safety, Downing said, tries to lessen the barriers for those who leave their situations which include everything from justified fear of the abuser to not wanting to leave a pet behind but having nowhere to go. 

Hope Plaza will accept pets, Downing said. It will have pop up food pantries. The bottom level will be filled with businesses that must provide jobs or job training to the residents. The remaining levels will be full of a combined 20 units of studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments. 

Hope Plaza, Downing said, will hopefully thrive on community support and partnership. 

In addition to the $7.5 million from the state that the center will receive next spring, Marion County also awarded the project $250,000 in Community Block Development Grant money and the project may be getting another $1 million to $2 million appropriation from the federal government as well in addition to $8.1 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds. 

In total, the project is projected to cost $11 million. That’s an increase of $1 million over the original budget, which Downing attributed to the rising cost of materials and construction. 

“We didn’t know it was all going to come together like this,” Downing said. “A program like this is going to make all the difference for generations because if you’re helping the mother, the children are going to be more successful. We’re really grateful to the legislature and city and county officials who are taking dollars coming into our region and giving them to a project that will make a long term difference for our survivors.” 

Rachel Alexander contributed reporting.

Contact reporter Caitlyn May at [email protected].

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