The Housing Opportunities Action Council has about a month to renovate a tire factory shop into a homeless shelter, and the Corvallis community is stepping up to the challenge.
“There’s been a lot of community interest in this project,” said Doug Davis, home repair initiative coordinator for Benton Habitat for Humanity, which is serving as the general contractor and volunteer coordinator for the shelter renovation.
The housing council, which is led jointly by Benton County and the city of Corvallis, announced Aug. 15 it had found a location for this season’s men’s cold weather shelter, which will be at the former Hanson Tire Factory, 211 SE Chapman Place. The shelter will house up to 40 men on bunk beds at one time when it opens Nov. 1.
After acquiring the appropriate city permits, the group set to work rehabbing the warehouse and on Saturday, 12 Oregon State University students and faculty were onsite with screwdrivers and hammers.
“To see a vanload of students show up here, it really means a lot,” said Shawn Collins, program manager for the housing council.
The students’ involvement was part of a “Fall into Service Day” hosted by the Center for Civic Engagement, which had groups working on several community projects. At the shelter, the students spent six hours removing boards and work tables from the walls, taking down doors that will be replaced and sweeping debris from the floor.
“It’s really exciting because it doesn’t look like much now but in five or six weeks it will look like a completely new place,” said freshman Chloe Grover.
Ashlei Edgemon, a senior who works at the Center for Civic Engagement, said it was "awesome" to be involved in the shelter’s renovation. She said her family was nearly homeless at one point and had benefited from community resources.
“So it hits home on a personal level,” Edgemon said. “I’m glad to be in a position where I’m able to give back at this point.”
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Broadleaf Architecture designed the renovation plans, which include adding a second bathroom and a shower. (Additional portable toilets and a temporary shower trailer will be accessible outside.) No existing walls in the 2,800-square-foot space have to come down, but shear walls will be added for stability and sheet rock will cover the exposed wood ceiling, Collins said. Ceiling fans will also be installed and the interior walls will need to be painted.
“The majority of it is going to be done by volunteers,” Davis said.
Although the shelter will open Nov. 1 for its five-month season, the renovations must be finished by Oct. 20 to ensure time for building inspections and staff training, he said.
“It’s a tough road to get to November 1, but a lot of people are lining up and committed to seeing it happen,” Collins said.
The Hanson location came with a caveat: the housing council can use it for only one year because its owner, Devco Engineering, has plans to turn it into office space.
“People are saying it’s a shame we only have it for one season, but it’s a great opportunity to see what it’s like to put together a new space,” Collins said.
He said the housing council has already started reviewing properties for the future. But, he also wants to pursue more permanent, supported housing options.
“This year buys us, as a community, the opportunity to step back and look at what model we need to pursue in the future,” Collins said.