City not seeking new micro-shelter village sites as court considers Center Street site approval

A Marion County judge’s order prevents the city of Salem from taking steps to implement an approved micro-village as planned after a nearby apartment owner raised concerns. Meanwhile, “Village of Hope” will get a 90-day extension to stay open until August 31.

Volunteers walk along a row of pallet shelters under construction on Tuesday, April 13, 2021. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)

City officials say they are not looking for any new sites for a planned micro-shelter village after a judge’s order blocked work on a Center Street property approved by the Salem City Council.

On March 11, Marion County Circuit Court Judge Thomas Hart ordered the city to take no action to locate the micro-shelter village at 1280 Center St. NE as the court is considering whether to do so. would create a public risk.

The order came after Salem-based Riches Property Management Inc. filed a motion seeking court review of the council’s decision to set up the village of refuge across from one of their properties, The Forum Apartments at 350 13th St. NE

It’s a setback for plans to open a site that city officials say could house about 40 shelters and has parking space. The city could have used the site for up to three years. The village would be operated by homeless service provider Church at the Park.

“The judge’s decision is temporary and not final,” Church at the Park wrote in a March 31 email update to supporters. “City attorneys are appealing the stay and hope the judge will rule in the city’s favor in the near future.”

Gretchen Bennett, the city’s homelessness liaison, said the court order prevents the city from doing “any preparatory work” for the micro-shelter village on the property.

Bennett said the city didn’t have a timeline on how much the order would delay setting up micro-shelters. “We hope the matter will be resolved quickly at the Circuit Court,” she said.

The Center Street site is one of three City Council approved on Jan. 24 as potential locations for a new micro-shelter site that would replace “Village of Hope,” the city’s first micro-shelter location. , which was operated by Church at the Park and housed 40 people.

The Village of Hope site was originally scheduled to be cleared by May as a deed requirement did not allow sheltering at the site for more than 18 months. But the state Department of Environmental Quality, which set the time limit at the site, granted Salem a 90-day extension to continue offering shelter at the site at 2640 Portland Rd. NE, said Kristin Retherford, director of the city’s urban development department, at a city council meeting last week. The site is a former location of the Department of Motor Vehicles.

The extension means Church at the Park can continue to operate the shelters until August 31, Bennett said.

The court ordered the city on March 11 to provide documents relating to council’s decision to fund and locate the Center Street shelter.

City attorney Dan Atchison told a March 28 city council meeting that the city is compiling the records so the court can determine whether the city has exposed the public to “unreasonable risk.”

Atchison also said the city is preparing to file motions to dismiss the case in response to the judge’s order.

A lawyer for Riches Property Management wrote in the petition dated February 23 that their investment in a multi-family property will be affected by health and safety issues. The company operates 13 properties in Salem and one in Tigard, according to its website.

He also said the city failed to consider the effect on public health and safety of setting up a micro-shelter village near an “unregulated high-speed rail junction.” “.

Regarding the city receiving a writ of review, Retherford said at the meeting that it’s often a “step forward, step back type process” for the city to identify sites and put set up micro-shelters.

Bennett said in January that the city planned to use part of a $10 million shelter grant it received last year from the state legislature to pay for the new site. The shelter was expected to cost $200,000 to start a location and an additional $192,000 for a month and a half of operation.

Salem area residents helped raise over $600,000 to purchase the shelters. There were around 400 people on a waiting list to enter the shelters in January, when councilors approved funding for the new site and the three potential locations.

The other two council-approved locations are at 2410 Turner Road SE (owned by Church at the Park) and at the northwest corner of Northeast Front and Hood streets (owned by Truitt Brothers). Both have either shorter leases or additional work or parking agreements with neighbors.

The shelter micro-villages are funded by federal money from the American Rescue Plan Act in fiscal year 2022 and the following year are funded by a combination of federal and state grant funds, the money s exhausting by FY2025.

Contact journalist Ardeshir Tabrizian: [email protected] or 503-929-3053.

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