Finalists selected for $1 million grant for temporary, permanent, emergency housing

Corvallis Housing Operational Committee met to obtain additional information about both proposals

The+sun+sets+on+Corvallis+Unity+Mens+Shelter+on+Oct.+20.+Unity+Shelter+is+one+of+the+two+finalists+for+the+%241M+grant.+

Matthew McKenna

The sun sets on Corvallis Unity Men’s Shelter on Oct. 20. Unity Shelter is one of the two finalists for the $1M grant.

Adriana Gutierrez, News Reporter

Two organizations are now finalists for the City of Corvallis’s $1 million grant for temporary, permanent and emergency housing. The Corvallis Housing Operation Committee met Monday afternoon to meet with both groups and gather more information about their proposals.

The first applicant, the Benton County Health Department, requested a minimum of $250,000 per year for three years, adding up to a maximum of $750,000 to support an inclement weather shelter, which will serve as a warming space, given expected severe winter weather this season

BCHD estimates that 30-40 individuals between the hours of 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. will benefit from the warming space. The facility will also aim to provide a sleeping area, bathroom access, shower access and access to electricity for charging devices. 

Health Department Director Suzanne Hoffman attended the city meeting, providing additional information to the committee about the department’s proposal. 

“It’s not housing, it’s not year round shelter. It is only for extreme weather conditions meant to serve a specific group of people who may need high levels of service” Hoffman said. “It’s very specifically for the houseless or unsheltered population. These are folks who, in our experience, may not always feel welcomed at other shelter locations for various reasons.”

Hoffman explained that the shelter will be an “extremely low barrier” service, modeled after the Egan Center in Eugene, which boasts rarely having asking people to leave.

The amount of funding requested will allow for the BCHD to lease a facility and cover the cost of a contract operator to build and operate the shelter. The health department has not yet found a contractor or site for the shelter and are working to acquire additional funding.

Additional funding will allow for the BCHD to secure the site year-long with the possibility to expand the thresholds for reopening in the summer months for those in need during extreme heat conditions, including poor air quality caused by wildfire smoke.

Hoffman mentioned the building could be used for training space, as they expect the shelter will rely mostly on volunteers despite having a small paid staff. 

The Unity Shelter — an already established non-profit organization in Corvallis that provides emergency shelter and transitional housing — is the second applicant for the city’s grant. They are requesting the full $1 million to purchase the Men’s Shelter, which is currently owned by Chapman Place, LLC.

If purchased by the Unity Shelter, they would add four to six additional beds and create emergency cold-weather space in the event of a winter storm.

Representatives with the Unity Shelter noted in the original proposals that the current owners have mentioned willingness to sell. While the Unity Shelter is requesting the full $1 million, they mentioned that if the asking price for the shelter is less than the total grant, the remaining money will be used to renovate the space. 

“It will definitely change the layout of the building, our ability to meet codes… and get the permanent occupancy we need in that building,” said Unity Shelter Executive Director Shawn Collins. 

Collins said that Unity Shelter has not yet secured a contractor, but are considering two candidates. Once a contractor is selected and — pending grant approval — the project would take three to five months. 

Unity Shelter has their own restricted funding of $121,600 to support the project. 

“If this funding is awarded, we would obviously kick into high gear and get these contractors started,” Collins said. 

After discussion with the Housing Operational Committee members, the Unity Shelter was recommended to raise the cost of rehabilitation from their original estimate of just under $130,000 to $300,000. BCHD was asked to be more specific on how the building acquired will be used in the off-season. 

Both proposals will move forward to be viewed by the Corvallis City Council in their next forum meeting. While the HOC could have continued conversations in a secondary meeting, members chose instead to move forward to the council, given recent cold weather conditions. 

“We all are feeling a level of urgency because of the level of suffering in our community,” said Housing and Neighborhood Services Manager Brigetta Olson. 

Olson predicts that City Council will make a decision in early December.