SALEM, Ore. (KOIN) — The City of Salem says extended services will be provided by 2 warming shelters shortly after a new ban on camping in the downtown area goes into effect.
City leaders have considered implementing city-sanctioned homeless campsites. But this week, officials said they will instead give more money to established warming shelters organized by Mid-Willamette Valley Community Action Agency.
City Council approved $213,000 to keep warming shelters at Church at the Park on Turner Road SE and First Presbyterian Church on Chemeketa Street NE open every night starting Jan. 1, 2020. The shelters will remain open every night through March 31 instead of just when temperatures drop. The funding will also support additional staff members and beds to help serve more people in need.
But campers will need to figure out where to go until those extended services are offered because all tents in the downtown Salem area will have to be taken down by Monday, Dec. 16 under a ban recently passed by Salem City Council.
City Manager Steve Powers told KOIN 6 News officials are trying to expedite services and encourage campers to take advantage of options and shelters that are currently available.
“Salem, like many other cities in this country, is really trying to manage and approach the issues that come with homelessness in a way that is compassionate and fair for everyone,” he said.
According to experts, there are currently 1,800 homeless in the Salem metro area. Three hundred are sheltered, another few hundred live in cars and about 1,000 live in tents. Four hundred of those tents are located downtown.
Jimmy Jones, the executive director of Mid-Willamette Valley Community Action, hopes the city will create annual funding to allow for the same solution every winter.
“What I really don’t want to see is us getting into a model where we are chasing a population around and creating a lot of unintended consequences,” he said.
Jones oversees the ARCHES Project that runs the warming shelters. He said they’ll be able to hire security staff for the churches with the extra funding provided by the city.
Currently, the programs can only house 100 a night but Jones hopes the funding will help between 140 and 200 people.
“I do believe that it is a better solution than organized tent camping in a community that has never had it before,” he said.
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