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Julie Arena has been hired to serve as program coordinator for the new Housing, Opportunity, Planning and Equity advisory board.

Arena, who starts her new position Oct. 14, comes to the Benton County position from California, where she has spent the past five years working for the state in health care and public health, including stints tackling substance abuse issues and communicable diseases.

Arena was one of two finalists who was brought in for a meet-and-greet session Aug. 21 at the Sunset Building. Kate Veiga, a health promotion specialist for the American Lung Association in Charleston, West Virginia, was the other finalist.

“I am thrilled that Julie accepted the offer to join Benton County,” said Dawn Emerick, the county Health Department director. “Her background in substance use disorder treatment, prevention and recovery policy analysis paired with her knowledge of public health, positions her as an excellent fit.

“I believe Julie will build the diverse public-private partnerships necessary to address issues of housing instability and homelessness in the short, near and long term.”

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HOPE is a new county advisory group that is taking over the work of the Housing Opportunities Action Council, which consisted primarily of social service providers. HOAC morphed into HOPE amid a wrenching community debate over where to locate services for the homeless. The charge of both groups is similar: to implement the city/county 10-year plan to address homelessness.

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HOPE will consist of a 21-member advisory board, with a seven-person subset serving as the executive committee. The group’s bylaws and an intergovernmental agreement are wending their way through the Benton County Board of Commissioners and the Corvallis City Council.

Emerick said that the board member selection process still must be completed and that applications for membership will be up on the county’s website (www.co.benton.or.us) in a few weeks. Emerick said she hopes that HOPE’s first meeting will occur in early November.

Arena, who has bachelor’s degrees in psychology and sociology from UCLA and a law degree from UC-Davis,. will serve as staff support for HOPE and will not be a member of the advisory group or its executive committee. Her salary will be $73,230, Emerick said.

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Contact reporter James Day at jim.day@gazettetimes.com or 541-812-6116. Follow at Twitter.com/jameshday or gazettetimes.com/blogs/jim-day.

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