Salem City Council won’t reconsider homeless site vote

Civic Affairs

The city is still studying a microshelter site in West Salem

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The Salem City Council continued their debate over their handling of announcing a proposed site for microshelters for the homeless, 2 weeks after a flood of public comments criticizing their lackluster communication with residents in West Salem.

Monday night Jim Lewis, the Salem councilor in the West Ward, wanted the City Council to reconsider their unanimous vote of September 27 to authorize a camp along Wallace Road.

“I believe we failed to communicate well enough in order to move forward in this decision,” he said. “For those who need to aim blame, I’ll take it.”

He pointed to several issues including unmapped flood prone areas, needing ODOT permission to access the site, inadequate public research, overwhelming opposition to the location and the willingness among the community to find a more suitable alternative site.

While the Salem City Councilors acknowledged the overwhelming amount of public comment in opposition, the majority of the councilors stressed the urgent need to address the homeless crisis.

“I’m hesitant to stop this and this needs to keep moving forward to get better places for people to be,” Councilor Chris Hoy said. “We still have people sleeping outside and that doesn’t sit well with me.”

Keep in mind the city staff is still studying that site to see if it’s a viable option. There seemed to be some confusion among council members about what that September 27 vote actually did.

After nearly an hour of debate, Lewis’ motion to reconsider failed. Only 3 councilors voted in favor of taking back their vote to assess the West Salem site for microshelters, including Jim Lewis, Jackie Leung and Jose Gonzalez.

If the site is deemed to be a viable option, then and only then would the city begin moving forward to develop the site.

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