Community draws up plans for homelessness
Published: Monday, March 4, 2013
Updated: Monday, March 4, 2013 01:03
Last Thursday, an annual forum was held to discuss Corvallis’ 10-year plan to end homelessness.
The community open forum was held in the Benton County Library Meeting room. Local leaders in the Corvallis and Linn Benton area — such as county commissioner Jay Dixon and Corvallis Mayor Julia Manning — were among the many to present on 2012 successes as well as upcoming plans within Corvallis for 2013.
The meeting had various speakers at the beginning and then separated into five different groups. At each of the five tables, signs indicated specific areas of homelessness catering to individual interests.
The signs varied from “prevention of homelessness” to “rehabilitation of homeless.” The system allowed for community members already involved in the 10-year plan, and those interested in the issue, to sit at the table they were most inclined to help or most concerned about.
The 10-year plan to end homelessness has been in action for the past three years. Next year, the city of Corvallis will be implementing new programs into the community intended to help support and improve the lives of transient members within Linn and Benton counties.
Currently, Corvallis has a men’s cold weather shelter and a women’s cold weather shelter. To be allowed to reap the benefits of that program, those interested must be 18 or older. These shelters are only open in the winter months.
The Jackson Street Youth Center is the only youth-based program within Corvallis specifically for struggling minors. Ann Craig, executive director of the Jackson Street Youth Center, announced at the meeting that in the next year the Jackson Street Youth Center will be opening up a transitional center for those older than the age of 18.
While the youth shelter serves those 17 and under, once a minor turns 18 they are no longer allowed to be in the program. Craig discussed the issues with that during the presentation, “once you turn 18, it doesn’t mean you know how to pay bills or rent.” The new transitional program will be up and running within the next year.
Another new improvement that will be made is a support call system that has gone live in Benton and Linn counties: 211. This is a long-planned dial program, putting callers into contact with shelter information, utility help, food pantries, job core phone numbers and more. Jennifer Moore, one of the executive directors, told a story of a female caller who had just been laid off.
The woman told dispatch that all she had to eat was white rice. Later she went on to say how grateful she was to have someone to share her story with. Moore discussed the way in which the new program would help those struggling to find help. Calls will be answered Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
“Many people simply don’t know the resources that are available to them,” Moore said.
When the speakers finished, the tables broke into topic-driven conversations and discussed things that Corvallis still needed to do to improve the program. Out of the groups, the ideas ranged from better mental health programs to improved care for children. One of the most pressing needs discussed during the group conversation was the need for a detox center.
Dickson, the Benton County commissioner, spoke regarding homelessness in the community and discussed the ways in which the surrounding community can improve the outcomes of the homeless. He described his hopefulness in the new plans, but made sure to note that they weren’t finished yet.
“One of the really important things to remember is that we are serving one person and one family at a time,” Dickson said.
Kristy Wilkinson, news reporter