Homelessness is too big a problem in both Salem and elsewhere for one-dimensional solutions. It's going to take a wide variety of ideas, both tried-and-true and out-of-the-box, to make a dent in Salem's homeless population.
So congrats to City Councilor Chris Hoy for a small "yin" proposal that would set up an organized location on private property for people who sleep in their cars.
A Salem Reporter story, "Salem official eyes organized camping for people who live in vehicles," describes Hoy's idea.
As city of Salem staff hunt for a place where homeless residents may legally set up tents, staff may also soon look for a place for cars, too.
Councilor Chris Hoy on Monday plans to ask staff to report back on how Salem can organize a place to camp for people who live in their vehicles. A draft of Hoy’s motion can be viewed online.
“Currently, many Salem residents experiencing homelessness live out of their cars or recreational vehicles,” the motion said. “There are few legal options for these residents to locate and maintain their vehicle for any period of time.”
Camping in cars also may impact neighborhoods and businesses, the motion said, with litter and the “unintended use of right-of-way as living space.”
The motion is another attempt in recent weeks by Salem officials to designate a place for homeless residents to spend the night.
Making it easier for homeless people to live out of their cars or RVs isn't a big step forward, but it's better than doing nothing.
On the other hand, Gene Pfeifer and Fay DeMeyer have a very yang'ish Big Idea: purchase the 45-acre Hillcrest property in south Salem and fashion it into a place where as many as 800 homeless people could live and receive workplace training.
It's great to see some creative thinking about how to deal with Salem's homeless problem. Sure, turning the Hillcrest property into what Pfeifer and DeMeyer are calling Hope Crest (nice name) faces long odds. But it sure would be nice if Hope Crest became a reality.
Here's some excerpts from the Statesman Journal story.
Gene Pfeifer sees an opportunity to save taxpayer money and put vacant public buildings back into use. Fay DeMeyer sees a chance to build a community where up to 800 homeless people are not just housed and fed but trained to reenter the workforce.
The pair — a local developer and a psychology instructor — are leading the charge to launch a residential program for the homeless at the shuttered Hillcrest Youth Correctional Facility campus in southeast Salem.
It's unlike anything ever tried in Salem. And while the approach has been used elsewhere in the country, so far it's receiving a lukewarm reception here.
They call it Hope Crest, a play on the name of the youth facility closed in 2017. The 45-acre property, about 5 miles from downtown, includes 17 buildings on a hilltop surrounded by a perimeter fence.
...Two potential buyers backed out after their offers were accepted by the Oregon Department of Administrative Services because the property didn't meet their development needs.
Pfeifer and DeMeyer made their move after the latest contract was terminated.
They established the Hope Crest Foundation, outlined their plan and introduced it to people with clout (business leaders and elected officials) and expertise (advocates and agencies who serve the homeless).
The foundation made an initial offer of $2.1 million for the property Nov. 15 and has since revised it at least twice to $2.7 million — just so it would be taken seriously. Members heard one of the previously accepted offers was $2.1 million, Pfeifer said.
...Pfeifer and DeMeyer envision creating a safe community for the homeless, a place where people could have temporary housing and get all the services they need, including substance abuse and mental health treatment and education and job training.