According to Corvallis homeless advocates, transitional housing could be key to helping people get off the streets and back into society.
“Being homeless, you either camp in tents or bounce back,” said Eva Bales of Corvallis. “The scary part is sometimes you don’t know where you’re going to be at night, where you’re going to go.”
Bales is one of the success stories of the Housing First philosophy used in Corvallis’ housing programmes. The approach first emphasizes a stable and safe place to live, followed by social services to address the root causes of each person’s homelessness.
A virtual presentation entitled “Safe Shelter through Collaborative Care” on the Corvallis SafePlace transitional housing program will be offered at noon June 29 on Zoom. The Zoom meeting link can be found on the Corvallis Sustainability Coalition website.
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Speakers at the event will focus on how SafePlace came to be, give an evaluation of the program, and issue a call to action for community support of micro-shelters. Members of the public will be able to ask questions during the event.
SafePlace is a program under Unity Shelter, a non-profit emergency and transitional housing organization based in Corvallis. SafePlace provides housing for individuals, couples and families at partner faith-based organizations, such as Safe Camp at First Congregational United Church of Christ.
Six years homeless in Corvallis
A lifelong resident of Corvallis, Bales has fallen on hard times, leading her to six years of living homeless. The transitional housing program and supportive friends helped her get back on her feet.
Bales warned that, having worked at HP Inc. and Oregon State University, homelessness could happen to anyone.
“It was tough,” Bales said. “I thought it would only be a short-term thing, but the years go by quickly.”
A good friend of hers who works at Men’s Shelter in South Corvallis told her about local shelter programs and suggested she check it out. It was just before Christmas in 2019. She landed a micro-shelter at Safe Camp, another Unity Shelter program, where she stayed for nine months.
“It was like a whole new opening for me,” she said. “It’s helped me in so many areas of my life – emotionally, that sense of safety and security is really important.”
A social services support network was instrumental for Bales, who said that without the staff and leaders of the case management and shelter program, she would not have been able to navigate her way to the connections that have turned his life upside down. She is grateful to have relearned life skills and how to be part of the community.
At 60, Bales has a renewed sense of life. She does part-time home care and enjoys being a new grandmother. And she received a 10-year emergency housing voucher under the American Rescue Plan Act that pays for a place in downtown Corvallis.
It’s a life-saving change – Bales said she couldn’t have survived another winter outside.
“Transitional housing. I had never heard that term before, but there is a lot of real meaning to it,” she said. “I have seen so many people come out of a very bad place in their lives and, through transitional housing, find themselves in a much better place. »
The Corvallis Sustainability Coalition Housing Action Team is co-sponsoring the transitional housing event with Unity Shelter. The coalition’s mission is to promote an environmentally, socially and economically healthy city and county. For more information, visit durablecorvallis.org.
“It’s a shame we can’t have more programs like this in the community,” Bales said. “I know there are a lot of people struggling.”
A place to rest, reflect and plan
Providing a safe place to sleep gives homeless people a break from being locked into the ‘fight or flight’ thought pattern, a chance to self-evaluate and plan for the future, said Reverend Jennifer Butler , senior minister of the First Congregational United Church of Christ and member of the steering committee of Safe Camp.
“People sometimes come after living outside for 20 or 30 years,” Butler said. “And maybe they have a whole history of untreated or undiagnosed mental health issues, physical health issues and possibly addiction.”
It can be extremely overwhelming for people who aren’t even sure they’ll stay overnight, she said, adding that’s why it’s so important to keep barriers low at the entrance to shelters, so that the healing process can start somewhere and take root.
And Butler said once people are in, connecting them to services helps them stay. She described shelter programs as a gateway to the social services system, noting that many would not be accepted into higher barrier shelters and would therefore remain at the mercy of the streets.
Three years after Safe Camp launched, the program now includes 29 micro-shelters across six sites, according to the Corvallis Sustainability Coalition, which reports that the waiting list for placement in SafePlace micro-shelters and other facilities is counting. about 200 people.
“We’re the most successful program in town,” Butler said. “We know it works.”
Cody Mann covers Benton County and the towns of Corvallis and Philomath. He can be reached at 541-812-6113 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter via @News_Mann_.