Engineer and downtown business owner Catherine Mater has developed an updated plan for consolidating the men’s cold weather shelter, the Stone Soup meal service and the Corvallis Daytime Daytime Drop-in Center into one location.
Mater, who opposes plans to place all three services at a downtown building on Southwest Second Street, originally had proposed combining the agencies at the old Flomatcher manufacturing plant just east of the Willamette River bridges on city-owned land in Linn County.
Now, Mater is proposing to use Flomatcher as a temporary location for the upcoming November-through-March men’s homeless shelter winter season. And she hopes to pitch her proposal to the Corvallis City Council at its July 2 meeting.
“Earlier we thought that Flomatcher could host all three agencies,” Mater said, “but that fell apart pretty quickly. It was not a good location for Stone Soup. And we realized that we had to look at other spaces.”
Mater said she has private funding commitments of “several million dollars” that she plans to use to construct a new building that would house all three services as well as drug and alcohol treatment facilities at a site to be determined.
The goal, Mater said, is for Stone Soup and the drop-in center to remain at their current church locations for an additional year. Mater and other community members oppose the Second Street site because of its possible impact on livability and downtown businesses.
Mater said she was looking at options for both vacant land and property that already has been developed. She estimates the new consolidated services building would be 15,000 to 20,000 square feet and require approximately four to five acres of land.
One of the complicating factors in Mater’s earlier proposal was that Linn County officials balked at the idea of permanently changing the use of the 9.5 acres at Flomatcher to social services.
Mater, who met Wednesday with Linn County Commissioner Will Tucker and Planning Director Robert Wheeldon, said that one-year-only temporary use is a different matter and “we now have a pathway forward with Linn County.”
Neither Tucker nor Wheeldon could be reached for comment.
Mater would not reveal who is in the investment group or how much money is involved.
“This has captured the attention of quite a few people, people who own property and people who have the financial capability to pull this off within a short period of time.” Mater said.
Money played a key role in putting plans for the Second Street location on hold. On June 14, the Benton County Board of Commissioners decided to withhold $60,000 that backers of the Second Street plan were hoping to use for shelter remodeling and operations. The Corvallis City Council on Monday approved $60,000 for men’s shelter services in its 2018-19 spending plan but has not allocated it while it works to schedule time to consider the Second Street and Mater proposals.
During the budget hearing councilors heard suggestions from members of the public to budget $120,000, essentially taking over the county's share, but they did not act on that proposition.
Stone Soup and the drop-in center receive money from the city’s annual social services grants, but they raise money for the rest of their budgets and do not depend on the city and county for funding to the extent that shelter operators do. Mater said that the three services could continue to operate under their current management or could choose to use some sort of unified administrative structure.
Shawn Collins of the United Way, project manager with the Housing Opportunities Action Council (HOAC), said he hopes that the City Council makes a decision soon regarding funds because the clock is ticking on getting Second Street ready for the planned Nov. 1 opening of the shelter. The HOAC, which is co-chaired by Corvallis Mayor Biff Traber and Benton County Commissioner Anne Schuster, is charged with implementing the county's 10-year plan to end homelessness.
Collins, who has been supervising the HOAC’s search for a men’s shelter solution for the past two years, said he has contractors “teed up and ready to go” on the remodeling work at the Second Street building.
“But until we have budget approval we’re kind of hanging out," he said. "We would like to see that decision made by July. If the council doesn’t act by August 1 that puts any site in jeopardy.”
Collins met Thursday with a group that included Traber, Schuster and Stone Soup board member Sara Ingle.
“The mayor is very aware of the timing,” said Collins.
Mater agreed on the deadline issue, noting that “getting a solution for the winter season is a pivotal point for us while we’re also working on the long term.”