The Corvallis Men’s Cold Weather Shelter closed April 2, one day after it was scheduled to close for the 2017-2018 season.
“It seemed cruel to turn them out on Easter morning, and there weren’t any other services available that day,” said Shawn Collins, Program Manager for Housing Opportunities Action Council. The women’s cold weather shelter, Room at the Inn, which operates November through March, also closed that same weekend.
The people who are currently housed at the shelter have limited options until the shelter reopens next year. “There are a few option in town, but not many,” Collins said. At the Men’s Cold Weather Shelter, occupants are not required to take drug and alcohol tests, which are required at many other shelters. The persons staying at the shelter can’t drink or use drugs on site, and they must “maintain a reasonable and respectable behavior,” Collins explained.
If people in need of housing are willing to get clean and sober, Community Outreach, Inc offers a variety of shelter and transitional housing opportunities. But Collins explained for most of the people who are currently staying at the cold weather shelter, their option is to camp, despite the fact that there is no legal spot to camp in Corvallis.
The police in town aren’t actively pursuing homeless people who are illegally camping, rather they respond to complaints that they receive.
“It’s a complaint driven system. They do respond if a community member complains about a camp,” Collins said. “If campers are not in parks land and camping in a way that is discreet and keeping their camps clean, [the likelihood of complaints] are much lower, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not illegal.”
The future of the shelter is unknown, but Collins sounds hopeful that they should have a solution soon. “We don’t yet know where the new shelter is going to be. We’re in pursuit of a couple different options.”
“Last year the only reason we ended up in the position we got in is because we were lucky,” Collins explained. They were able to use part of the Devco Engineering building. “It was a warehouse, it wasn’t set up for people to live there. There wasn’t bathrooms there. We had to do some things for fire safety.”
“We were lucky that Devco was willing to step up and provide an effective space for this season’s shelter,” said Corvallis Mayor Biff Traber when The Advocate reached out for comment. “Volunteers, including the core operating team from the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, contributed more than 4,900 volunteer hours at the shelter, amounting to about $120,000 in donated time. The volunteers even decided to stay open on April 1, one day beyond their contractual commitment, to avoid turning people away on a Sunday, when many other service providers are not open. Even though this was a one-year solution, I consider it a successful operation, and we are actively looking for a location to serve the community next year and beyond.”
Collins said that for the future of the shelter they hope to find a location that needs less renovation and can be a long term solution. “In the next month or so we hope to announce a location. There is kind of two good options.”
By Ashley Rammelsberg