Salem to Address Downtown Health & Safety Concerns

Posted on January 8, 2020

Salem, Ore. – On Thursday, January 9, the City of Salem will temporarily close two sidewalks in downtown Salem and several nearby parking spaces to clean and sanitize the areas on Center Street where people resting in the public right of way have left accumulations of garbage and waste. On Friday, clean-up will continue on Liberty Street.

Residents and visitors have reported difficulty passing on public rights of way, sometimes threatening behavior, and unsanitary conditions, including solid waste and garbage accumulating in public areas. Downtown businesses say the conditions around their properties adversely affect their customers.

While sitting or lying down on sidewalks is allowed under the City’s camping restrictions, the City will intervene when conditions deteriorate, and public health or safety may be at risk along sidewalks.

Clean-ups of this size and scale will result in a temporary closure of the sidewalk for cleaning and sanitation purposes. The City’s focus will be on removing accumulated waste and restoring public health. Possessions left behind will be collected and retained for 30 days.

“Helping our unsheltered neighbors continues to require a community-wide response,” said Steve Powers, Salem city manager. “Reducing homelessness in our community is a priority of the City.

Our primary concern is health and safety of all in our community including our unsheltered neighbors who often deal with untreated mental illness, addiction, and chronic health conditions worsened by long periods of homelessness. Congregating in large groups under such unsanitary conditions isn’t a healthy situation for anyone. Together, we can do better for our unsheltered neighbors than a camp on a sidewalk. The City is committed to working in partnership with the community to provide housing and shelter.”

Businesses and other neighbors to unsheltered people can encourage respect for property by keeping the area in front of their business or property clean, well-maintained and well-lighted. Maintaining your own area encourages others to respect the area. More information is available online at https://www.cityofsalem.net/Pages/camping-in-your-neighborhood.aspx.

COMMUNITY SEEKING MORE TEMPORARY SHELTER BEDS THROUGH MARCH

Together with the ARCHES Project, the City of Salem is looking at properties to serve as a temporary shelter space during the cold season. ARCHES has been working with a commercial broker to look at privately owned spaces.

Any space used as a shelter must meet health, safety and fire codes, be suitable for a shelter operation and meet zoning requirements. Proximity to resources and services is also important.

AFFORDABLE HOUSING AND EMERGENCY SHELTER RESOURCES IN OUR COMMUNITY

Salem organizations currently offer 330 shelter beds nightly. Another 256 beds are available during nights when temperatures drop to 32 degrees or below through the volunteer network of churches known as the Salem Warming Network. Since the implementation of the City’s new camping law, no one seeking space in a warming shelter has been turned away.

The City has for some time been working on efforts to reduce hardships that lead to the homelessness of our residents and increase access to affordable housing for those at risk of becoming homeless. With our non-profit partners, the City connects people to services and shelter, including:

  • City Council awards roughly $400,000 each year in grants and $1.4 million in federal funding to local non-profits that provide emergency or essential services to the most vulnerable populations with the highest need.
  • Salem’s Housing Rental Assistance Program (HRAP) has housed 200 of the hardest-to-house individuals by providing housing first, intensive case management, and other resources.
  • More emergency shelter beds are coming to Salem, including another 150 emergency shelter beds when Union Gospel Mission’s new building is complete.
  • The City and Salem Housing Authority are opening new affordable housing units.
  • Through grants and tax incentives with support of the local development community and non-profits, opening other affordable housing throughout our community.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

No matter the size, your contributions will go the furthest towards making a difference when donated through established organizations instead of directly to our unsheltered neighbors on the street. You can play an integral role in improving the lives of individuals, while helping your community. The more unsheltered individuals are encouraged to make contact with service providers, the more likely they are to eventually accept other kinds of services, shelter, and housing.

  • Volunteer your time with the Salem Warming Center Network, ARCHES, Union Gospel Mission and other service providers in our community.
  • Many organizations directly help people experiencing homelessness and work to increase affordable housing. One thing you can do is find an organization that you want to support and ask them what they need.
  • Salem’s homeless service providers know how to help our homeless neighbors. It’s what they do best. The more you support them, the more they can help people get into stable housing.
  • Get to know the people living on the streets in your area and treat them like any neighbor. Avoid perpetuating stereotypes, stigma and myths. People experiencing homelessness are not defined by their housing status. It’s often temporary, and it’s possible they’ve sought housing and/or shelter and there was none available.

Online:

Meeting Housing Needs, City of Salem: https://www.cityofsalem.net/Pages/meeting-housing-needs.aspx
The ARCHES Project: http://mwvcaa.org/programs/crp/
Salem Warming Network: https://salemwarming.weebly.com
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