On May 7 officials with the Housing Opportunities Action Council, the Stone Soup meal service and the Corvallis Daytime Drop-in Center met with Gazette-Times editors and reporters to announce plans for joining forces on a joint location for social services.
A building on Southwest Second Street had been secured to house the men’s cold weather homeless shelter, Stone Soup and the drop-in center. Shawn Collins (HOAC), Sara Ingle (Stone Soup) and Aleita Hass-Holcombe (drop-in center) pitched their plan that night to the Corvallis City Council.
Councilors applauded the news and everyone lived happily ever after. Well, councilors DID applaud the news, but the happily-ever-afters remain elusive.
Community opposition, particularly from downtown interests, led to a bewildering set of zigs and zags, city meetings, county meetings, community meetings, new “solutions” at the old Flomatcher plant and at the corner of Northeast Belvue and Walnut ... and more meetings.
When the dust settled Aug. 16 the men’s shelter was back at the old Hanson Tire Factory on Southeast Chapman Place, where it resided a year ago, and Stone Soup and the drop-in center were once again looking for real estate.
Here is where the three entities stand:
The center, which serves homeless individuals and other area residents in need and fills a morning and afternoon gap when shelter services are not available, already had moved into temporary quarters at Second Street when the dominoes fell. The center, in a whirlwind spring and summer had moved from its decade-long quarters at the First Christian Church to First United Methodist Church and finally to the parking lot at Grace Lutheran.
“Yesterday,” said director Aleita Hass-Holcombe, when asked Thursday when she would like to be in new quarters. The center was bustling with at least a dozen or so clients having pastries and coffee. Use of the center has spiked because of the start of the rainy season and some recent camp cleanups.
“We’re looking for a new location … again,” said Hass-Holcombe, who added that “people love it here. It’s been really, really good. Now if I can just make it to the end of September.”
Hass-Holcombe said she still is interested in the co-location approach that was announced in May, but it remains to be seen whether the proper mix of the right site and the required community support can be attained.
Hass-Holcombe also took the Gazette-Times on a tour of what might have been, the expansive space in the Second Street building that was intended to house her operation and Stone Soup, with the shelter just a hallway away.
Because the men’s homeless facility operated at Hanson a year ago, “there is not much in terms of renovation required,” said Shawn Collins of the United Way who serves as project manager for the HOAC.
“But there is a little work to do," he said. "Here’s some electrical upgrades needed to improve lighting and make more outlets available, and there are some roof repairs needed to address some persistent leaks.”
The Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Corvallis will again operate the shelter, along with a cadre of volunteers. Collins emphasized that “the shelter couldn’t have run last year without the support of our dedicated volunteers, and this year will be no different.”
The shelter is scheduled to open Nov. 1 and run through March 31. No plans have been announced for where the shelter might operate in the 2019-20 season.
“Stone Soup is going strong but currently treading water with regard to relocating,” board member Sara Ingle said.
The meal service, in its 36th year, offers dinners at St. Mary’s on Monday and Thursday, dinner at First Christian on Tuesday and Sunday, lunch at St. Mary’s on Wednesday and Friday and brunch at First Christian on Saturday.
“We are not actively looking for a new site where we can cook and serve from a single kitchen,” Ingle said. “But that is definitely our long-term plan and probably to be co-located with the Corvallis Daytime Drop-in Center.
“We want to wait for the community dialogue to play out over the next four months. It is very difficult to (predict) how the community conversation will go. We are very grateful for the support of our donors, volunteers and churches.”