Homeless groups in Corvallis, concerned about the closing of the men’s and women’s winter shelters, participated in a downtown protest Tuesday.
Groups gathered just after noon in Central Park and made signs that read “Help Me End Homelessness” and “Where Do You Want Me To Camp, Julie Manning?” referring to Corvallis’ mayor.
“We’re going to put on a peaceful protest,” said Leo Steelman, one of the organizers of the protest. “Our goal is to wake people up and let them know what’s actually going on.”
At 2 p.m., the protest shifted to Southwest Fourth Street, right outside the Benton County Courthouse.
More than a dozen people lined up in the right-hand parking lane and displayed their signs to motorists. The signs drew an occasional honk or wave from passersby.
Renae Nichols, who often is seen busking on Second Street, played her flute on the sidewalk.
Event organizers Steelman and Marge Pettitt brainstormed the idea of a protest Monday at the Corvallis-Benton County Public Library on the final day that the shelters would be open for the winter season — despite continuing rain and raw temperatures in the 40s and 30s.
“We thought we needed to bring the situation to everyone’s attention,” said Pettitt, who had been spending her nights at the women’s shelter.
“This shouldn’t be happening in the United States,” Steelman said. “There is a lack of places for the homeless not just in Corvallis but throughout the United States.”
By early evening the crowd of protesters had dwindled to a handful as the group shared the space with the anti-war groups who regularly demonstrate on the site.
Pettitt, meanwhile, put up her tent on the sidewalk, surrounded it with the signs from the protest and planned to settle in for the night.
Ward 8 Corvallis Councilor Biff Traber, a mayoral candidate, said he recognizes more needs to be done to address the needs of the homeless.
“The people of Corvallis and Benton County do a tremendous amount, both volunteer hours and funding, to provide shelter to the homeless during the winter and to help homeless individuals and families find more permanent shelter year-round,” Traber said in an email.
“These efforts do not meet all the need all year; more needs to be done. The challenge is for the community — governments, nonprofits, churches and individuals — to work together finding solutions, prioritizing, and making progress a step at a time.”