Efforts to aid the local homeless population took a big step forward in November when the Corvallis Homeless Shelter Coalition swung a deal to buy the building it had been leasing at 530 S.W. Fourth St.
Now the group is laying the groundwork for a multimillion-dollar fundraising campaign to replace its jury-rigged 40-bed men’s shelter with a purpose-built three-story building to house men’s, women’s and family dormitories, a daytime drop-in center, a meal program and other services.
“Our thinking is that we will use the site we’re in through next winter,” said Gina Vee, the coalition’s executive director.
“Hopefully, by April 2015 we will have enough money that we can go ahead with the groundbreaking and have the building up by fall of 2015. That’s our timeline.”
The acquisition of permanent space after years of moving from one rented facility to another was a big deal for the coalition, but it was also a major milestone in Benton County’s 10-year plan to address the problem of homelessness, which has now been in place for more than four years.
And it’s just one of many accomplishments that will be highlighted this week by the Benton County Homeless Oversight Committee in its annual progress report to the community. The event, which is free and open to the public, will take place at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Corvallis-Benton County Public Library, 645 N.W. Monroe Ave.
Other achievements worthy of note include the coalition’s Women’s Rental Assistance Program, which provides as much as $200 a month in rent subsidies for up to a year to keep single females and households headed by women from becoming homeless.
There’s Good 2 Go, a Community Outreach Inc. program that provides a package of housing and support services to help homeless veterans get back on their feet.
There’s the Jackson Street Youth Shelter’s new transitional program for 18- to 20-year-olds.
There’s the Linn-Benton Housing Authority’s Family Self-Sufficiency Program, which helped 16 families begin or complete the process of getting off public assistance.
And there’s Willamette Neighborhood Housing Services, which opened new low-income housing complexes at Seavey Meadows and Alexander Court, renovated the 50-unit Lancaster Bridge Apartments and secured funding to buy and rehab the 35-unit Julian Apartments.
There were other signs of progress as well in what by many measures was a banner year for easing the problem of homelessness in the area.
“We can always wish we had done more, but I think what has occurred is pretty significant,” said Benton County Commissioner Jay Dixon, who co-chairs the Benton County Homeless Oversight Committee along with Corvallis Mayor Julie Manning.
“One of the things we’ve said from the very beginning and continue to say is housing first, in terms of the services we provide to the homeless,” Dixon added.
“They need a lot of things — they need food, they need medical care, they need services — but the first thing is housing.”
Of course, more work remains to be done. The committee has recommended four priorities for the coming year:
• Secure access to detox and addiction treatment.
• Create more housing for homeless or runaway youths.
• Preserve rent-assisted properties.
• Develop more permanent and affordable housing for homeless families and veterans.
Contact reporter Bennett Hall at email@example.com or 541-758-9529.