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Bettina Schempf of the Old Mill Center, center, addresses Tuesday's meeting of the Rental Property Managers Group at the Corvallis Elks Lodge. Helen Higgins of the Boys & Girls Club of Corvallis and Shawn Collins of the Housing Opportunities Action Council, to Schempf's left, also spoke to the group.

A slightly different menu was on the table Tuesday at the Corvallis Rental Property Managers Group.

The landlord group, which meets monthly at the Corvallis Elks Lodge, usually discusses security deposits or educating property managers about leases or hears from the Fire Department and the Police Department about livability and safety issues.

This time the group heard from community organizations whose missions wouldn’t seem to apply to landlords … but by the end of the meeting one could see the connections.

Speaking were Bettina Schempf of the Old Mill Center, Helen Higgins of the Boys & Girls Club of Corvallis and Shawn Collins of the Housing Opportunities Action Council.

The thread that linked the three groups to the mission of the RPMG was the question of what sort of connective tissue the community needs to provide to keep things humming. The Old Mill Center and the Boys & Girls Club work to make sure families and individuals have the tools to thrive … and Collins works on affordable housing. And, ultimately, everyone is a potential tenant.

Collins encouraged the landlords to be “good neighbors” to their tenants, watching out for financial or other issues that might turn a good renter into a bad one.

“There is an opportunity to make a difference in your tenants’ lives,” said Collins, who also noted the barriers of financial literacy, a lack of living wage jobs and high prices that can challenge those in the housing market.

“We are raising the next generation of renters. That’s why this is so important,” said meeting moderator Dawn Duerksen of Duerksen & Associates. “Someday one of these kids is going to be mowing my lawn, and that freaks me out.”

Duerksen, who is a Boys & Girls Club board member, also noted that although more than 80 percent of students graduate from Corvallis high schools, 100 percent of those in the club’s teen program graduate.

In her remarks, Higgins described the expansion project that will allow the club to double the number of teens it can serve from 150 to 300. The club is holding a groundbreaking April 18 for the new facility.

Carl Carpenter of Homeport Property Management noted that “when we are trying to help (tenants) it’s probably too late. How do we train them before they come into our rentals?”

Another audience member said a list of resources for tenants would be helpful, and Duerksen said she had one to provide to the group. Also discussed was a list of volunteering opportunities, with the goal being to encourage renters, particularly Oregon State University students, to get more involved in the community.

Carpenter, meanwhile, added that sometimes outreach can only go so far.

“It has to be a two-way street,” said Carpenter, noting that other agencies had come before the group with some of the same messages. “I’m getting frustrated here. I can’t knock down the doors. We need someone to call us back.”

Contact reporter James Day at jim.day@gazettetimes.com or 541-758-9542. Follow at Twitter.com/jameshday or gazettetimes.com/blogs/jim-day.

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