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Mid-Willamette Valley Homeless Alliance Seeks Business Input

Written by Luis Ramirez on Jan. 9th, 2024
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The Mid-Willamette Valley Homeless Alliance has been operating in Salem for just four years, but its impact on the community has been immense.

The organization was founded to help pool resources and use maximum efficiency with governmental dollars to help address people who are experiencing homelessness. They pool together both federal and state money and distribute the money to organizations and services that are directly impacting the local homeless crisis.

“Before 2020, we were with the Rural Oregon Continuum of Care, which was with several counties,” Executive Director Elaine Lozier said. “There were some individual needs in the community that they felt weren’t being addressed and they wanted to bring more focus to our community needs individually and address them locally. A group of people got together and decided to focus on their continuum of care within Marion and Polk County.”

They are an intergovernmental agency with a unique government structure and operate as an ORS 190 entity. 

The alliance features a plethora of different partners featuring folks in healthcare, nonprofits, school districts, government, and community leaders who work together to help the more than 1,500 folks experiencing homelessness in Marion and Polk County.

“It’s an alliance of many different partners and is pretty diverse in the types of partners that are engaged,” Lozier said. “Together we serve some of those functions to help with the crisis in the community.”

In 2023, they received $10.4 million from the state to distribute to services in the area. The organization has continued to grow, but challenges remain.

“We haven’t had too much engagement with businesses and it’s such an important voice in this conversation,” Lozier said. “A lot of the challenges related to homelessness our business owners are feeling and not sure how to respond. We have a couple here and there, but we don’t have much representation. Hoping we can build some bridges and connections within the community.”

Another area where Mid-Willamette Valley Homeless Alliance would like to bridge the gap is with landlords in the community and their experiences and ideas to help make changes.

“Every person that experiences homelessness has a different background and what led to that, but when you are working with people that have so much trauma, there can be challenges with that relationship,” Lozier said. “Some tenants don’t know how to ask for help from a landlord.”

Having diverse opinions will only be good in the long term as they continue to combat the hardships of homelessness.

“At the end of the day, we’re here to support the organizations that are working day in and day out with the people that are experiencing homelessness,” Lozier said. “I think it’s so important that this is a community effort. If you live in Salem, you interact with homelessness, whether you realize it or not. We each have a part to play in making our community a place where people can be supported is only going to better our community.”

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