People started coming right away – even while desks and phones were still in boxes. The ARCHES staff responded, opening services in their new building on July 3, just three days after moving their entire staff and inventory.
The ARCHES project is part of Mid-Willamette Valley Community Action Agency. The mission of ARCHES is “to provide referral and services to individuals and families experiencing homelessness, and those at risk of becoming homeless.” These services and this project are acutely needed now. The new location at 615 Commercial St. NE seems ideal for connecting effectively with clients. Directly across Commercial from the site of the new Salem Police Department facility, on bus lines, and near access to other critical services.
The goal motivating the purchase of this new building was to increase capacity for services, to increase the volume of services already being offered through ARCHES and to have space to effectively develop new services. Potentially new partners can be co-housed in this building. One of those new partners could be the City of Salem which is considering the possibility of eventually locating a much needed sobering center within the ARCHES building.
In the new building, progress toward the goal of expanding services and increasing capacity to meet the needs of the homeless and potentially homeless population has already been concretely demonstrated. Following are three examples of that progress.
The number of lunches provided in the former location was between 150 and 200 per week. The number of lunches provided since relocating has exceeded 400 per week, even though, with the kitchen under renovation, lunches are now available only two hours per day. When the renovation is completed, those hours will be expanded.
The tool being used to assess the needs of a homeless individual or family is the VI-SPDAT (Vulnerability Index – Service Prioritization Decision Assistance Tool). It requires significant staff time to meet with new people seeking help and to administer the VI-SPDAT. However, with the results, informing decisions about what services are needed, placements and referrals can be much more effective. Levels and types of needs become clear. What has the impact of ARCHES moving to the new location been on VI-SPDAT assessments? In the former location, evaluations averaged 140 per month. Since the move, the rate has been 208 per month.
In the midst of major renovation work inside the building, ARCHES staff immediately responded to the heat wave in the early days of August. As temperatures soared far above 100 degrees, an emergency planning meeting was called on Monday, July 31 by Jimmy Jones, director of ARCHES. Only one day later, in partnership with the City of Salem, ARCHES opened and operated Salem’s first community cooling center. The city made available a large space in the former DeLon Auto complex and provided porta-potties.
Many groups participated as supporting partners. United Way brought chilled water bottles, fresh berries, and salted nuts. First Congregational Church loaned 60 folding chairs. Salvation Army loaned many folding tables and chairs. Marion County Dog Control loaned dog crates and water bowls. HomeBase Shelters of Salem donated many supplies, volunteer hours, and hauling of materials. Citizens of Salem met all volunteer needs as soon as the e-mail announcement of the need for help was released. All conceived and coordinated by ARCHES in a matter of hours.
ARCHES was able to purchase its new larger and centrally located building with monies made available by the state through Oregon Housing and Community Services (OHCS). The purchase price of the building was approximately 2.1 million dollars. The down payment was $500 thousand. These monies were allocated as one of the allowable expenses to expand community capacity for shelter services.
In February, 2017 OHCS approved ARCHES using funds to purchase the building. This purchase, and the dramatically increased services it provides for the homeless and those imminently in danger of becoming homeless, benefits Salem greatly.
ARCHES provides mail services, lunches, assessments, and navigation through the network of services to meet many needs. They offer housing placement assistance, short-to-medium-term rental assistance, referrals, case management, and support for veterans and their families. Renovation is transforming former realty offices into a large airy open space for the day center. Showers and laundry facilities will be available there.
In this time of rising rent prices, as an increasing number of our people face housing insecurity, ARCHES opens its doors wide giving a variety of help – and giving hope.