The Salem Homeless Coalition and the Mid-Willamette Homeless Initiative Task Force are two local groups formed to increase services for the homeless in Salem.

The Coalition is a group of volunteers from five Salem congregations and representatives from the Salem Police Force, the Union Gospel Mission, the Community Action Agency and Northwest Human Services, as well as interested individuals throughout the Salem-Keizer community. It has been meeting regularly on the first Monday of the month at 7:00 pm in St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, 790 Marion Street, Salem. The group is facilitated by Audrey Schackel.

At its most recent meeting on March 7th the Coalition group heard an impressive presentation by Dan Bryant of Eugene who reviewed that city’s current programs including semi-improved camping facilities, transitional housing in “tiny houses” and more permanent micro housing that will require modest rents but will also provide a homeowner’s equity. All Interested persons are invited to Coalition meetings.

The Task Force, in contrast, is a quasi-governmental group recently empanelled to study and reduce homelessness in the area. It held its first meeting on February 17 at the Salem Public Library. The Task Force consists of 20 members from the region including the mayors of Salem and Keizer, commissioners from Marion and Polk Counties, sheriffs of Marion and Polk Counties, the Chief of Police for Salem and a variety of other public and private members. Its stated purpose is “to identify and launch proven strategies that will reduce homelessness in the Marion-Polk region, encompassing the cities of Keizer and Salem.” The initial term of the Task Force extends until the end of February, 2017.

The first meeting consisted of an introduction of members and staff, organizational details, background information and discussion of possible approaches to resolving the persistent problem homelessness.  No public testimony was taken.

The Task Force has established a website:  www.homelesstaskforce.net.

Eight additional public Task Force meetings are scheduled through December 1, 2016.  The next meeting is March 29 at the Keizer Community Center beginning at 4:00 pm. CCTV will rebroadcast the meetings at times determined by the station.