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Since 1955, United Way of Benton and Lincoln Counties has been advocating for our community’s most vulnerable populations. By funding programs across a broad spectrum of nonprofit partners and convening members of the community to tackle the hardest-to-stare-down issues, United Way of Benton and Lincoln Counties mobilizes resources and expertise where most needed.

Our work is complex, and as such, we thought it pertinent to clarify some misinformation following last Sunday’s unfortunately misleading and unattributed advertisement in the Corvallis Gazette-Times.

The Housing Opportunities Action Council (HOAC) was created in late 2015, evolving as a working council from the former Homeless Oversight Committee. HOAC, jointly funded by the city of Corvallis and Benton County, is a collaborative group of 25 separate organizations tasked with addressing housing affordability and homelessness.

In early 2016, HOAC convened as a newly branded council to re-establish priorities and adopt bylaws. Recognizing the need for an administrative capacity-builder, the lead-administrator role was created. Each of the 25 organizations represented on HOAC had the opportunity to apply to serve as the fiduciary and convening agent for the position. United Way of Benton and Lincoln Counties  applied and was selected by HOAC, as serving the community as a trusted, neutral convener is integral to our mission. This role has been occupied by Shawn Collins since November 2016. 

As the fiduciary agent, United Way of Benton and Lincoln Counties is contractually obligated to both manage the city and county monies associated with HOAC’s work, while providing joint oversight with HOAC leadership on how the lead administrator is performing the contract’s outlined duties.

Serving as a participating organization as well as the fiduciary agent can be a difficult role to fulfill. As such, United Way of Benton and Lincoln Counties ensures that core functions of the lead administrator role, such as ensuring that a location for a cold-weather shelter is secured, while limiting the direction given to the lead administrator. These duties are outlined in the county- and city-approved position proposal from February 2016 and are available to the public. Any preference in HOAC strategy or direction from United Way of Benton and Lincoln Counties is done so as a participating, voting member. 

United Way of Benton and Lincoln Counties fights for the health, education, and financial stability of every person in our community. We support community-driven initiatives and collaborative efforts that create sustainable, long-lasting change. As such, United Way of Benton and Lincoln Counties does not take a public stance on the Second Street shelter proposal, or any proposed location for that matter, but rather supports the collaborative work of HOAC and the job duties as delegated by HOAC to the lead administrator role.

Additionally, we support Shawn Collins in his tireless efforts in this innovative and uniquely funded position with numerous stakeholders and supervisors. While we sincerely appreciate and understand the viewpoints and concerns made by all those affected by a shelter’s placement, particularly the business community, we believe that groups like HOAC provide the appropriate forum to collaborate on such topics. Great communities are built when we work together collaboratively.

It is imperative to note amidst all the confusing details and heated discussions that the men’s cold weather shelter must be operable for the upcoming season by Nov. 1. That is 123 short days away. The decision on a final location now rests with our elected officials at City Council tomorrow.

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Blake Pang is the CEO of the United Ways serving Linn, Benton and Lincoln counties.

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