Biblical references on a metal beam at the new Union Gospel Ministry men's shelter on Wednesday, Feb. 10. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)

The Union Gospel Mission in Salem can expand its staff at a time homelessness remains a persistent challenge, aided by recent major donations.

An anonymous donor came forward with $1 million in a challenge for the mission to raise a matching amount. The campaign is set to end on Aug. 31 and has raised 90% of its goal, said Alena Harvey, spokesperson for the mission. The mission didn’t want to disclose who its donors were.  

Dan Clem, executive director of UGM, said the money will go toward paying the mortgage and lower the cost of operating the new men’s mission, which opened in July.

The mission moved to its new location on 777 Commercial St. N.E. with nearly double the square footage and other new features such as health clinic. The move allowed the mission to double the number of men it serves to 300.

Clem said the additional funding will keep the mission from cutting back services to keep within budget.

Cascades Gateway Park and Wallace Marine Park were recently closed to camping, which the city had allowed during the pandemic to limit the spread of Covid. 

The closures, along with an encampment under the Market Street overpass being swept, has dislocated hundreds of people.

Clem said the mission plans to hire four more employees and is looking to hire a second mental health counselor.

“When there’s 100 guys standing outside the door, we’ll have enough counselors to deal with them,” he said.

He also said the new building increased the mission’s square footage from around 30,000 to 57,000. He expects the utilities are going to double in cost.

“The reality is we don’t know what the bill is going to look like yet,” he said. “Until I know what the cost of operation is we want to make sure we are poised to hire more folks when the guys come.” 

Harvey said the matching funds will allow the mission’s services and programs to grow, like search and rescue outreach, physical and mental health services, education, and addictions recovery.

“This allows us to breathe a bit more,” she said. 

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

JUST THE FACTS, FOR SALEM - We report on your community with care and depth, fairness and accuracy. Get local news that matters to you. Subscribe to Salem Reporter starting at $5 a month. Click I want to subscribe!