Salem micro-shelter ‘a life changer for sure’

Marion County

Micro-shelters showing early signs of success

SALEM, Ore. (KOIN) — Heather Shields recently had some medical hurdles – diabetes and mental health issues – that left her and her son stranded, sleeping in her car in Salem.

She showed up at a micro-shelter on NE Portland Road in Salem “crying. And they showed me what to do,” Shields told KOIN 6 News.

This micro-shelter, not even yet completely built out, has only been in operation for about a month, but 4 families have already transitioned into permanent housing.

Some of the Salem micro-shelters in Northeast Salem, November 5, 2021 (KOIN)

Shields said the 2 beds, a table and a secure door that locks goes a long way.

“They’re simple but they’re comfortable,” she said. “It helped me. It took me 30 days to be able to not be in a homeless shelter. Otherwise I would have been lost. I didn’t know what to do.”

That stability, support and safety helped her get into an apartment.

These micro-shelters have been hotly debated in Salem, but they are showing some early signs of success. Earlier this week, one proposed site in West Salem failed, after a feasibility study revealed the property is a wetland.

Pastor Josh Erickson of the Church at the Park is a leader of the micro-shelter community. He said you can’t underestimate the power of low barrier housing.

Pastor Josh Erickson of Church of the Park is a proponent of the micro-shelters in Salem, November 5, 2021 (KOIN)

“Just by being able to provide a safe shelter, by being able to provide a locked door and case management — how much people are able to find work – get stable enough, or be able to leave their stuff so they can actually go find housing,” Erickson said.

After going through hell and back, Heather Shields is now reunited with her son Jamie.

“This (micro-shelter) was amazing,” she said. “This was a life changer for sure.”

The micro-shelters cost about $5,000 each and $1,600 per person per month. It adds up to be $96,000 per month, assuming the community has 60 guests. That includes case management, navigation services, food and staffing.

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