What is the best way for UUCS to most effectively use our energy and resources to improve the lives of people who are experiencing homelessness in Salem?

The problem of homelessness in Salem is of catastrophic proportions, and I fully support UUCS enhancing our role in reducing the problem.

I want to thank the Habitat and Hope Village (HHV) Board for its enduring commitment to those who are living unsheltered in our community and for elevating this concern to our congregation at this time.

I respect and honor the HHV Board for the work you have done to connect with and educate the surrounding community regarding your vision. I respect your collaboration with ARCHES. I fully believe the Farmhouse would be a beautiful structure if built and the five women would have excellent case management.

However, as one of the two people who undertook HHV’s lengthy and thorough study to identify both the resources for serving those who are living unsheltered, and “Best Practices” for assisting those who are experiencing homelessness, I am now obligated to speak openly to the congregation prior to voting on the Farmhouse Project.

Specifically, I need to speak about why I will be voting against the Farmhouse Project on UUCS property and what I hope our congregation will decide to do instead.
Here are the reasons why I cannot support the Farmhouse Project:
1. Our site: Unfortunately, UUCS is not near any of the services needed by people who are experiencing homelessness (grocery stores, case management, mental health support, health care providers, job training, employment). And, there is no public transportation to our site. I suggest if we want to make our site at UUCS available to those who are homeless and living in their cars, we could instead partner with Church of the Park and become a satellite site for their supervised Overnight Parking Program. That way there would be no permanent building on the UUCS property, only portable restrooms and garbage disposal.
2. Most important reason: There are other excellent programs up and running in Salem that already serve those who are experiencing homelessness. These other programs are sited in downtown Salem, and have a track record of success with their clients. The programs are run by skilled, caring people who could vastly expand their services if UUCS would partner and provide volunteer assistance and commit to providing financial resources. Following are four more ideas for our Congregation to consider if we do not partner with Church at the Park.
3. If UUCS wishes to focus on women who are experiencing homelessness: We could partner with Inside-Out Ministries and United Way which together operate Safe Sleep Salem. Safe Sleep Salem offers up to 19 women a safe, welcoming, supportive environment to sleep and become connected with resources in our community. Safe Sleep Salem is always filled to capacity and unable to serve all those who request to stay.
4. If UUCS wishes to focus on youth who are experiencing homelessness: We could partner with Mid-Willamette Valley Community Action Agency that runs HOME Youth and Resource Center ( a drop-in daytime center) or Taylor’s House ( a 10 bed shelter) serving youth from 11-17 years of age. Taylor’s House is usually filled to capacity and unable to serve all those who want to stay there. Both HOME and Taylor’s House offer extensive support to young vulnerable youth who are living unsheltered in Salem.
5. If UUCS wishes to focus on young adults who are experiencing homelessness: We could partner with Northwest Human Services that runs HOST (Health Outreach Shelter Transitions). HOST is an excellent program serving young adults 18-24 years of age, with a current capacity for 14 people at one time.
6. If UUCS wants to focus on families that are experiencing homelessness: We could invest more in Family Promise. As we know, Family Promise has capacity to house four families at a time, and usually has a long waiting list.

Each program aforementioned is effectively run by skilled, competent, committed, caring people, and each program could expand services with UUCS energy and financial support; thus serving a larger proportion of those in need of help than if we invested the same amount of energy and resources in building a Farmhouse. Each program aforementioned is located where supportive services (grocery stores, case management, medical/ mental health care, job training/employment opportunities) are available to program participants by using public transportation.

By partnering with another church or community organization that currently is running an effective program, UUCS would strengthen ties to our community, raise awareness of UUCS in our community, and reduce the problem of homelessness far more than by building a Farmhouse for five women. I would consider such a partnership to be a

In conclusion: building a farmhouse on UUCS property is not the most effective way to reduce the problem of homelessness in Salem. We can achieve much more if we partner with another organization that is already effectively running such a program. All we need to do is commit ourselves to join them. Let’s do that!