Salem City Council has approved three new sites for micro-shelter villages for homeless individuals.
During Monday's meeting, the council unanimously approved funding for one of those sites, but did not specify which one.
The village would be the third site in Salem but will ultimately replace the Village of Hope site at 2640 Portland Road NE near the former DMV building. The other existing village is at 3737 Portland Road NE.
City homelessness liaison Gretchen Bennett said the site near the downtown Safeway on Center Street looked like the best option for continuing the Village of Hope. But more finalization is needed before a solid decision is reached on which site will be funded through the council's actions Monday, she said.
Advocates say their goal is to have eight villages in each ward in the city.
The three sites considered Monday were:
In South Salem, on nonprofit land at 2410 Turner Road SE owned by current micro-shelter operator Church at the Park. The nonprofit already operates a navigation and Safe Park site on the land near Cascades Gateway Park.
Privately owned property on the northwest corner of Front and Hood streets NE. The land is vacant and zoned for industrial use.
Privately owned property at 1280 Center St. NE on vacant land across from the downtown Safeway.
The micro-shelter buildings are already funded. A community effort has raised $600,000 in donations — enough for 120 shelters. Despite having enough funds, the city has struggled to find land to host the villages.
The shelters each cost $5,000, have room for two people, allow them to secure their belongings and give them a safe, warm place to sleep. Advocates say this allows people experiencing homelessness to stabilize, get treatment and connect to more permanent housing solutions.
There is also funding already available to get the site set up. Of $392,000 in state sheltering grants, $200,000 would be used for start-up expenses at the new site and $192,000 would be used for operational costs.
The city would rent the land for the privately-owned locations.
Residents spoke out Monday against various sites.
One said northeast Salem seemed to be bearing the brunt of the homelessness challenges of Salem.
In his written testimony, resident Aaron Terpening urged each councilor to advocate and find sites in their wards so sites could be distributed throughout the city — not just in north and central Salem.
"It's well past time for the rest of our community to share in providing this service," he said. "Unsheltered people live in every sector in our city. There should be micro shelters in every sector as well."
The manager of a nearby apartment complex said the Center Street location would not be ideal because of its direct abutment to multi-family housing.
Cory Poole, chair of the Southeast Mill Creek Association and owner of the Paradise Island Park senior community, said he wanted the location proposed at Turner Road to have secure fencing, 24-hour security and a camping ban around the perimeter.
Poole long advocated against the dispersed, unorganized camping at Cascades Gateway Park neighboring the senior community. He urged the city to instead focus on organized camping like the micro-shelter villages.
DJ Vincent, founding pastor of the Church at the Park, which manages the camps, said the ideal scenario was adding sites at all three locations.
A total of 280 micro shelter beds would be available if all three were approved, Vincent said. With operational infrastructure already in place, it would take two months to get three locations up and running.
Earlier this month, city officials listed five proposed sites in north, south and central Salem with the hope of opening at least two new villages.
The shelters would prioritize women and people over the age of 55.
The other locations considered were the city-owned Peace Plaza at 555 Liberty St. SE at the space between the Salem Public Library and City Hall, and privately owned property at 1940 Fairgrounds Road NE.
Learn more at public meetings
The city and Church at the Park are hosting meetings to answer questions and address concerns about the sites.
The Salem City Manager's Office will host a Zoom event from noon to 1 p.m. at us02web.zoom.us/j/82255293572.
Church at the Park will host an in-person meeting from 6-7 p.m. Thursday at IKE Box at 299 Cottage St. NE.
This article originally appeared on Salem Statesman Journal: Micro-shelter villages for homeless: Salem council approves 3 sites