County Commish Casts Downtown Homeless Shelter Doubts

The disagreement over the new cold weather shelter on 2nd Street continues, and the shelter may have a new, albeit unexpected, opponent. County Commissioner Anne Schuster, co-chair of the Housing Opportunities Action Council and veteran of the Corvallis homeless issue, has been publicly questioning the downtown ramifications of the proposed 2nd Street location via her Facebook page.

“There are three agencies wanting to provide services for homeless,” she wrote. “They want to co-locate in a building downtown. They have been seeking a site for years and this opportunity was offered to them so they are jumping at it. The result is that it could have a very powerful impact upon our downtown.”

Proponents of the shelter have cited the supposed great success of the collaboration between last year’s South Corvallis shelter and its neighbors, notably the First Alternative Natural Foods Co-op. Schuster addressed this as well.

“[The Co-op] suffered a loss of business because of theft and drop off in the number of customers,” wrote Schuster. “They would move if the shelter continued there. To me, this is an indication of what would happen downtown.”

First Alternative issued a statement concerning last season’s temporary cold weather shelter location, and confirms Schuster’s claims.

For instance, a portion of the statement reads, “Contrary to the conversations currently being offered by some members of the community, the shelter impact was negative on our business and community last year, but since we were assured that this was a one and done, we chose not to complain but to deal internally with the daily theft and disturbances that occurred because of the proximity of the shelter – we are not without compassion for the issue of homelessness.”

While many are in favor of the new location, this is a dividing issue. It has both strong support and opposition, and as Schuster described: “both are entrenched.”

-Jay Sharpe