Occupancy at the new Signs of Victory emergency shelter took a step forward Wednesday with a recommendation to loan the nonprofit $100,000 in urban renewal funds.
The Central Albany Revitalization Area's advisory board recommended approval of the loan for the Albany Revitalization Agency's board of directors to consider, a discussion tentatively scheduled for March 8.
CARA didn't set any specifics for the loan but directed staff members to work with the city's attorney on a contract that offers an interest rate of probably 2 or 3 percent, said Ed Hodney, the city's interim urban renewal director.
George Matland, director of Signs of Victory Missions, had asked for the loan to complete the emergency shelter. The money will be used to pay for a fire suppression system, new windows and restroom fixtures so that people can begin staying overnight at the Jackson Street location.
If all goes as planned, the idea is to open for overnight stays on July 1, Matland said.
Matland requested a five-year loan of $20,000 per year. He said once everyone is moved from the current shelter, a duplex at 118 and 120 Seventh Ave. S.E., the old building can be sold and proceeds used to help pay off the loan. He said the shelter also will put proceeds from its annual Christmas tree sales toward repaying the loan.
"I’m excited, I really am," he said. "Our goal is to help as many people as we possibly can.”
Signs of Victory Ministries has a complex of outreach programs at 1100 and 1122 Jackson St., and an adjacent building at 450 11th Ave. All are within the CARA urban renewal boundaries, Hodney said.
The seven members of the Albany City Council, who also comprise the Albany Revitalization Agency board of directors, sit on the CARA advisory board with seven other appointed members.
Hodney said the vote for the recommendation was 12-2, with the two dissenting members saying only that they would prefer the proposed contract first come back before the CARA board before going straight to the Albany Revitalization Agency.
The other CARA board members said they hoped to save time by taking the contract straight to the agency board, Hodney said.
City Manager Wes Hare was one of the people to speak in support of the loan at Wednesday's meeting. In a later interview, he noted the city also had loaned $100,000 about a decade ago to Helping Hands to help that organization expand its emergency shelter.
“I think the (Signs of Victory) loan makes sense in terms of addressing some issues that we have here in town," Hare said. "One, I think it helps improve facilities available for the homeless. Currently, Signs of Victory is operating out of an old duplex on Seventh, and I think everyone acknowledges that house is just not made for things it’s being used for."
The new location is much larger and already includes all the nonprofit's other programs: a warming center, chapel, hygiene room, food bank, clothing exchange and "wellness center," a place where people can get help filling out paperwork for disability services or the Oregon Health Plan.
Finishing the shelter is the last step, Hare said. “It’s just a really good idea to get that up and going.”