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From the outside, the building is not much to look at.

The red, white and blue siding of the former tire shop is faded and grimy and pieces of the brick façade are crumbling and overgrown with moss.

The inside is better though: the place is remodeled with fresh dry wall and Sunday afternoon still smelled like fresh paint.

And, thanks to a new furnace, the place was mercifully warm.

Dozens of people turned out Sunday for an open house at the temporary home of the Corvallis Men’s Shelter, which is located at Highway 99W and Southeast Chapman Place. Earlier this year, the former men’s shelter, located downtown, was forced to close permanently as part of a settlement in a lawsuit brought by a neighbor of the shelter.

That closure prompted a coalition of local government agencies and area non-profits to begin scrambling for a new location. Devco Engineering, which owns the former Hanson Tire Factory location next to the First Alternative Co-op’s South Corvallis store, stepped forward in August to offer the building for free as a shelter for one year.

Shawn Collins, program manager for the Housing Opportunities Action Council, the coalition behind the shelter, said the building lacked even bathrooms when it was offered to them and needed a $65,000 to $70,000 renovation to work as a shelter. However, Devco picked up about $35,000 of that figure, which included the cost of having bathrooms and an Americans with Disabilities Act compliant shower installed.

“Devco gets high marks,” Collins said. “I could not have asked for a better partner.”

Other than the bathroom work, most of the renovation was done by volunteers with Benton County Habitat for Humanity. Although the site was identified, work didn’t begin on readying the shelter until late September, Collins said, and much of the work was done in the week leading up to the open house.

“If you were here Tuesday, you wouldn’t recognize it,” he said.

Collins said the goal is to have the shelter open Wednesday, but there is still some electrical work on the site that will be done Monday and Tuesday. The new bathrooms likely won’t be finished by Wednesday, and Collins said the shelter's opening on time will likely depend on whether the city will permit the building for use with only portable toilets on site. But even if it can’t open Wednesday, Collins said he expects the shelter will still be open early in November.

The city of Corvallis and Benton County each contributed $60,000 to the shelter this year for the renovation and operating expenses, but Collins said the organization will still need to fundraise to cover a bit of their remaining expenses.

Harry Reich, a former shelter volunteer who was hired for a new position as a dedicated manager for the shelter this fall, said he's excited to see the facility nearly ready to open.

“I think it’s going to work out real nice,” he said. “Hopefully, we can give these guys a nice, safe place to come at night.”

Reich said the previous shelter didn’t have a shower, and he estimates with the shower on site, the men who stay at the shelter will get to shower once a week. Shelter volunteers will give men with scabies a chance to shower twice a day so, with medication, they can get better.

Reich added that the shelter is planning to extend its morning hours compared to past years, staying open until 9 a.m., a full two hours later.

It will begin letting in men with poor health at 6 p.m., officially open its doors at 7 p.m., and lock outside doors to new entrants at 8 p.m.  

Reich added that if men in the shelter leave during the night, they cannot re-enter. And the shelter is using a rear door of the building as its entrance, so men waiting for the shelter to open will be behind a fence and be separated from the co-op.

This year, the shelter will operate under the non-profit status of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Corvallis. The church’s minister, Jill McAllister, said taking on financial management of the shelter was a part of the church’s justice and outreach efforts.

McAllister said the church stepped forward when a financial manager was needed because people’s lives are at stake.

“We are not a creedal religion. We do not require anyone to believe anything but what makes sense to them, but we gather around common values. We believe in the inherent worth and dignity of every human being,” she said.

McAllister added that seeing the shelter come together so quickly through the efforts of so many people and partner organizations was inspiring.

“You realize what’s possible when people work together,” McAllister said.

Email mens.shelter,manager@gmail.com or call 541-791-6691 for information about volunteering with the shelter.

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Anthony Rimel covers education and can be reached at anthony.rimel@lee.net, 541-758-9526, or via Twitter @anthonyrimel.

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