A partially-completed pallet shelter on Tuesday, April 13, 2021. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)

The city of Salem and Church at the Park want community members to help pay for so-called Pallet structures that are intended to help people transition out of homelessness.

The 64-square-foot structures – fitting two single beds with room for belongings – can be connected to electricity and built as part of a managed shelter community, according to a flyer sent out by volunteers about sponsoring the shelters.

The houses will be displayed at Riverfront Park at 200 Water St. N.E.  Saturday, Sept. 18 and Sunday, Sept. 19 with information about how to become a sponsor. 

The city or Church at the Park will own the houses bought with donations, each costing $5,000, and Church at the Park will pay for additional administration and supervision costs, the flyer said. 

Sponsors can also donate through pledges or partial, monthly payments for up to three years. Volunteer Hazel Patton said six sponsors have donated so far and eight more have “promised.”

Church at the Park opened the city’s first Pallet shelter site earlier this spring, with space for about 37 people living in the temporary shelters and another 18 living in vehicles at 2640 Portland Rd. N.E.

The nonprofit is the only social service provider in Salem running a managed outdoor camp, currently operating two Pallet shelter sites on Portland Road.

The city will propose a third site somewhere in west Salem at the Sept. 27 Salem City Council meeting.

Most of the houses will be located on property the city owns or leases, according to the flyer.  

“What holds us up a little bit is just finding a site for these structures,” Patton said.

As volunteers work to fundraise, the city is responsible for finding shelter sites. The city has previously had difficulty finding available, suitable land to place shelters and manage campsites.

The temporary houses are intended to give houseless people time “to work on more stable, long-term solutions,” said volunteer Ron Steiner.

The city has a contract with the Tacoma-based company Pallet, which provides the structures.

Donations made to Church at the Park for the houses are eligible for tax deductions.

Sponsors can choose to have a customized design for the outside of the shelter or mentor  residents.  Church at the Park staff believe “it helps unsheltered individuals visually see the community support for their housing and development,” the plan said.

Patton said the transitional housing will give residents an experience similar to applying to rent an apartment. “It gives them the feeling that they are in somewhat control of their life,” she said, “but they’re also in a position where this is transitional, because they want to move on into something more permanent. They want to get their life back.”

A mental health counselor with Church at the Park will help refer houseless people to services they need, including one of the managed camps, supportive housing or the Oregon State Hospital, said DJ Vincent, founding pastor and chief executive officer for Church at the Park.

Residents of the Pallet houses won’t be drug tested, but can’t have drugs or alcohol onsite.

PREVIOUS REPORTING:

Salem considers managed homeless camp in former car lot

 Contact reporter Ardeshir Tabrizian: [email protected] or 503-929-3053.

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