Q: Who has built the microshelters?
A: The microshelters are being built with generous donations for materials and the donated labor of local contractors.
Q: Are other faith communities involved in the SafePlace program?
A: At this writing, two other congregations, the Corvallis Evangelical Church and the First United Methodist Church, have become SafePlace sites, and microshelters have been placed at both churches. The goal is to enlist additional faith communities and other organizations in the SafePlace effort.
Q: How can my faith community or organization get involved in placing vehicles or microshelters for people who are unhoused in our parking lot?
A: First, assess the energy and commitment of your congregation, community or organization to take this on. Has serving the houseless been a part of your ministry or mission in the past? Is it something that your community or organization is willing to do now? In our experience, working with people who are unhoused can be incredibly rewarding, and it can trigger controversy – among neighbors and others. It’s work that’s considerably easier with the support of a reasonably united community. So the first step is to talk this over with other members of your community or organization. Next, connect with SafePlace! Our program has been operational for a year and we have created the infrastructure, support network, and resources to create a successful program throughout our city. A contact email for SafePlace is listed later in this document.
Q: Can we get a microshelter for the parking lot at my faith community or organization?
A: You can get a microshelter by becoming a program participant of SafePlace. Please note that our microshelters are all constructed by volunteer labor. Therefore, availability of units ready to place is subject to the schedule of our construction partners.
Q: How do we find out more about becoming a SafePlace location?
A: For more information, contact Garrett Beatty, worship pastor at Corvallis Evangelical Church (the location of one of the SafePlace microshelters), at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q: Are there indications that Safe Camp and SafePlace are having success in helping residents transition into more stable housing?
A: Yes. At this writing, 11 participants have moved out of Safe Camp and into housing. All Safe Camp residents have been added to the waiting list for Section 8 housing vouchers. In addition, Safe Camp participants are connecting with health care services and the Oregon Health Plan, with the assistance of Benton County health navigators to support getting their health care needs met.
Q: I’ve heard that some law enforcement officials have concerns about camps for people who are unhoused such as Safe Camp. Is this true?
A: It’s true. However, Safe Camp leaders believe many of these concerns reflect law enforcement’s previous experience in dealing with camps in unauthorized locations such as the tree farm property adjacent to Safe Camp. Law enforcement in the county has much less experience working with a managed situation such as Safe Camp. Safe Camp leaders believe a managed camp in which residents must adhere to a code of conduct, and where those participants can access necessary services, is safer (and easier for officers to deal with) than what has been the city and county’s status quo: A series of camps that can be closed down with little or no notice, forcing people who are unhoused scurry to find new locations to live.
Safe Camp managers believe managed facilities such as Safe Camp, with case management and other services, offer a better option, both for camp participants and for the community.
Q: Aren’t Safe Camp and SafePlace luring houseless people with no connection to the mid-valley region?
A: No. The vast majority of camp participants have connections to the area.
Q: Who’s paying for Safe Camp and SafePlace?
A: To date, this program has been funded by the hosts of SafePlace locations (First Congregational UCC, First United Methodist, Corvallis Evangelical Church), our partner organizations and agencies like the Corvallis Sustainability Coalition, the Men’s Shelter, Room at the Inn, Corvallis Housing First, and contributions by individuals and other faith communities and organizations.
Q: How can I donate to Safe Camp or SafePlace?
A: If you’re interested in contributing to Safe Camp or SafePlace or to help build additional microshelters, information on how to donate can be found at these sites: Our own Giving page and through the Corvallis Sustainability Coalition’s website - https://sustainablecorvallis.org/get-involved/donate/ (Be sure to specify whether your donations are for Safe Camp, SafePlace or microshelter construction.)
Q: What is the status of the application from First Congregational to Benton County for a conditional use permit for Safe Camp?
A: On Aug. 18, the county Planning Commission voted 6-1 to grant the church’s application for a conditional use permit for Safe Camp. The commission’s decision was not appealed.
Q: What is the church asking for from the county?
A: The church asked to use the 1.35 acres of its property that is in the county as part of its Safe Camp ministry – its work to provide temporary, transitional shelter to people in our community who lack shelter.
Q: Are conditions attached to the permit?
A: Yes – and many of those conditions have been proposed by Safe Camp managers to help improve the safety and comfort of Safe Camp residents and our neighbors. For example, the church will cap the maximum number of residents at Safe Camp at 21, divided between tents and microshelters. The conditions proposed by the church also call for guests to sign a code of conduct; failure to adhere to the code of conduct can lead to a guest’s eviction from Safe Camp. (Guests now must sign a code of conduct, which has been substantially revised since July 2019, and guests have been evicted for code violations. See the Code of Conduct document here.) Other conditions are designed to address fire safety concerns – for example, each camping site and microshelter is equipped with a fire extinguisher. (For more on the conditions to which the church has agreed, read the church’s supplemental materials to the conditional use application, on the county’s website at http://bit.ly/2xeWYSW)