Clock Ticks on Shelter Location

Five and a half hours later, the July 2 City Council meeting adjourned from the Majestic Theatre, at max capacity, with two leading sites up for consideration for this year’s men’s cold weather shelter — one at the formerly proposed downtown Second Street location, the other at a newly disclosed North Corvallis location, behind the Pepsi plant off Walnut Blvd. The third proposed Flomatcher site was seemingly a flop, due to logistical considerations.

Deliberation over which site the city council will contribute their yearly allowance of $60,000 to is planned for the upcoming July 16 meeting, however the decision could extend to a subsequent meeting on August 6. Time is of the essence, however, as Homeless Project Manager Shawn Collins, who oversees the shelter’s operations, raised concern for a decision pending July 16 — remarking that anything later would present a tough pull of resources though could be possible.

The Benton County Board of Commissioners plans to meet July 10 to decide if they’ll be making a matching contribution of $60,000. Contributions granted by the city and commissioner could be contingent on the chosen location. 

Here’s a rundown of both locations, including commentary from the homeless community. Some have also expressed concern about the newly revealed North site, and Mayor Traber states that there is no current plan to take public testimony from prospective neighbors, though he encourages people to write in with their concerns.

The Second Street Site
Collins is the main proponent of the downtown location, at 545 SW 2nd St in the Community Services Consortium building, where landlord Tim Hennessy has been patiently holding the site and where prep work has already begun. Prior to concerns raised by past and potential neighbors, the site was assumed to be granted.

The site is proposed to accommodate the cold weather shelter, headed by The Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, along with a Daytime Drop-In Center and Stone Soup.

Collins is in favor of the location’s wraparound of resources, including employment opportunities, community integration, and social services — also that it’s closest to where the homeless already are. It’s downtown locale makes it walkable for clientele, negating some need for bus transport.

The site is already properly zoned, meaning a timely opening would likely occur. It also requires the least investment, allowing future flexibility.

The neighboring community has seen some opposition to the site — mostly by business owners prone to impact from increased homeless activity. Past conflicts at a 4th Street location and instances of theft and loitering at the First Alternative Co-Op — neighbor to the shelter last year — have fueled hesitancy in sealing the deal from community leadership.

Homeless Community Weighs In
“They’re worried that homeless people are gonna congregate over by the skate park, but they already do,” commented one Corvallis resident, John Myers. 

Though no longer homeless, Myers keeps in touch with the homeless community. He was joined by Vern Jones and John Tucker — both actively homeless — at the downtown waterfront, prior to Monday’s council meeting. 

“The most important thing for me is not necessarily the exact location but [that] the services be consolidated so people don’t have to spend all of their time around town going on a bus or bike or whatever,” Myers continued. 

Jones is in favor of the downtown location. “I think downtown is best because we’ve got a better program down here. We’ve got the post office, we can get our mail. We don’t have to get on a bus to go anywhere… I’m terrified of buses.”

Tucker also takes pleasure in being near the river, saying watching the water is a soothing experience when he’s tired. He raises concern for older homeless folks such as himself, while Tucker points to the disabled population, when considering transport to a northern site. 

Above food and shelter, Jones places the need for more detox centers, stating that alcohol indulgence by the homeless population is a coping mechanism to homelessness. 

“It’s too hard to survive,” added Tucker. “Our housing cost here in Corvallis is too astronomical.” 

Myers reported becoming homeless in Portland, after his housing costs exceeded his means. He was drawn back to Corvallis by family and what the men say is a supportive local homeless community.

“The homeless people [in Corvallis] are supportive of each other,” said Tucker. 

However, as with any community, “There’s always a few rotten apples,” said Myers.

Tucker considers last year’s shelter a major success, seeing that there were no reports of serious crimes and noted success with treatment services. 

The North Location
Endorsed by Corvallis resident and downtown developer Rick Carone, the north site is an 11 acre property located behind the Pepsi plant at Walnut and NE Jack London Street. Carone, along with unnamed investors, are planning to fund $4 million in second year operations.

Carone would act as landlord to the location and says service providers would run the site.  Construction would be done by vendors, and Carone says there are banks willing to fund between 65 to 70 percent of the project.

Carone plans to use an onsite office building to house the homeless, but the Daytime Drop-In Center and Stone Soup would not be able to co-locate on the site until a new building is completed in late 2019. In the end, this would leave 9 open acres for potential development of permanent supportive and transitional housing, which would require further city approval.

When asked by one council member if he would consider funding transitional housing on the site, in the event that a separate location is selected for emergent sheltering, Carone said he would consider it, though he lacked knowlege on the subject.

As it sits currently, the site would require a zoning change and remodeling, meaning it may not be ready in time for the expected opening day, on November 1. Though the city could grant a zoning change in time, neighbors would have the option of appealing that decision — locally and then to Oregon’s Land Use Appeals Board — potentially delaying the project past November 1. 

Located on the bus line, many view the location’s accessibility to public transportation as a positive, however some argue that the current bus schedule may not fully accommodate the needs of the homeless who might access the shelter.

If granted, council members recommended that Carone include the homeless community in design plans for the shelter.

Neighbors of the North location were unaware of the proposed site before Monday’s council meeting, and Mayor Traber stated there is no plan for a hearing by the city to discuss potential impacts — to adjacent lower income homeowners and families, apartment residents, middle income neighbors, and business owners, employees, and customers on 9th St and in the surrounding area.

 The Board of County Commissioners meets July 10 to decide on granting $60,000 in shelter funds. City Council meets on July 16 at 6 p.m., at the fire house on 400 NW Harrison Blvd, for potential determination of this year’s cold weather shelter location.

By Stevie Beisswanger