The Community Services Consortium has awarded more than half a million dollars in emergency grant money to help aid local outreach organizations. The goal is to help alleviate some of the ongoing issues presented by the coronavirus pandemic,
CSC announced in August that three local agencies in Benton, Linn and Lincoln counties have been granted $569,479 in federal Emergency Solutions Grant COVID-19 money.
A statewide moratorium on housing evictions is set to end on Sept. 30 — which will further exacerbate the growing list of issues faced by the portion of Oregon’s population that is struggling to afford housing. Many local shelter and outreach programs spent the summer navigating the logistical challenges created by COVID-19.
Now, many of those organizations have restructured in order to better help those in need of their services,and the additional funding provided by CSC will go a long way toward helping those affected by the pandemic.
Here is a look at the three recipients:
Based in Corvallis, the Unity Shelter is an umbrella organization for three different services to help those who do not have a place to call home. The shelter was awarded $329,418 for shelter and outreach services to homeless adults in Benton County.
“Part of what that grant does is just allow us to continue to serve a very vulnerable population that seems to be growing,” Unity Shelter Executive Director Shawn Collins said. “What this does is definitely kind of stabilize our budget.”
Unity's men’s and women's shelters are normally seasonal, but both have stayed open in some capacity during the summer. The women’s shelter is currently open 24/7, while the men’s shelter has morphed into a hygiene center that offers washing stations, laundry service, food and showers.
Unity Shelter’s SafePlace program includes around a dozen wooden microshelters — essentially tiny houses — in three different locations around town. Collins said the folks in those microshelters were placed there because they are medically sensitive.
“They’d be at a real risk if they were to catch COVID,” Collins said. “Living on the street, if you’ve got certain types of medical conditions, is rough enough; to get COVID with those medical conditions would be very dangerous and likely fatal.”
In addition to using the funding to help those who are already facing homelessnses, Collins said it will also allow Unity Shelter to engage people with services to help get them back in housing.
“You’re just starting to see more people kind of living on that edge,” Collins said. “I think that as they start to fall out of housing, it can be a big challenge to get back in.”
The mid-valley nonprofit with offices in Albany and Corvallis works with those experiencing homelessness, addiction and mental illness, CHANCE received $157,951 from the CSC for sheltering medically fragile adults in Benton, Linn and Lincoln counties.
The funding will be pivotal in allowing the organization to help individuals who don’t meet medically fragile requirements.
"With this grant that CSC is providing to us, for those who have lost housing, we will be able to put them up in a hotel/motel if they find themselves homeless due to emergencies,” said Jeff Blackford, executive director of CHANCE. “And we will be able to help find them permanent, supportive housing. They’ll have that resource to be able to be off the streets.”
Blackford estimates that with the funding, CHANCE will be able to assist between 500 and 600 additional people.
"We’re really good at taking a little bit of money and stretching it to help a whole bunch of people,” Blackford said. “This dollar amount that we were awarded, I think that we will be able to stretch it even further.”
During the pandemic, CHANCE has remained open to those who need it but has had to change the way it operates, Blackford said The number of people who can come into its centers has been limited, and CHANCE has been unable to host groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous.
Based around the needs created by COVID, CHANCE created a hotel/motel program in conjunction with CSC in all three counties in which it operates, and currently has contracts with 22 hotels in five cities.
“Whatever resource that is needed we will connect with a partner to make sure those needs are being met,” Blackford said. “If it is someone who is COVID-positive, we will make sure it is in a timely manner while also making sure that protocols are being met. So the individual is protected and is practicing social distancing.”
Jackson Street Youth Services
With locations in Benton, Linn and Lincoln counties, Jackson Street Youth Services works to provide a stable future for youth in crisis in the tri-county area. It was awarded $82,110 by CSC to assist with shelter and outreach services to homeless youth.
Like so many other outreach programs, Jackson Street Youth Services has had to acclimate to the circumstances created by the pandemic and take extra precautions to keep youth safe. The funding will go a long way toward assisting with that process and will also allow the organization to increase its outreach while the majority of kids are out of school for the foreseeable future.
"Because of COVID and school being closed, that actually puts the youth at more risk who might be in a vulnerable situation at home. It makes them more isolated,” said Ann Craig, executive director at Jackson Street Youth Services. “When they are at school, a counselor might see that there are some issues. But without that, there’s not as many other adults connecting youth to our services.”
The centers also will be helping students with their schooling while they are learning remotely. The funding will help staffers at the center provide structure and activities for kids who will now have a lot more time on their hands without the daily schedule of in-person learning.
Craig said the grant will go a long way toward helping Jackson Street Youth Services with its primary goal of doing everything possible to keep youth safe.
“We’re really stepping training up for things like sex trafficking, labor trafficking, how to recognize it for what it is,” Craig said. "With this funding, we’re going to be able to really make sure we have enough staff. We’re covering a lot of rural areas and we need to make sure we have enough staff to really do that.”