The Mayor’s Task Force on Solutions for Downtown Homelessness held their fourth meeting Wed., April 4. This session firmly focused on possible solutions for the many challenges earlier identified as relating to the many homeless people in downtown Salem. Each of the eighteen appointed members of the Task Force were asked to submit in writing their thoughts and suggestions for possible solutions.
Additionally, pages of written public input on possible solutions have been received from people not appointed to serve on the Task Force. Next step is for Kristen Retherford, Salem’s Director of Urban Development and facilitator of the Task Force to meet with Cara Kaser, Salem City Councilor for Ward 1 and Task Force Chair. They will consider all of the ideas generated by both Task Force members and citizens of Salem, and will organize all of this material into a condensed and presentable format.
At this fifth meeting, Task Force members will decide which possible solution concepts they wish to send as recommendations to Salem City Council. Finally, responsibility for decisions about what actions are to be taken will fall on the shoulders of the elected members of City Council.
Among the highlights of the fourth session on April 4 were statements from two homeless men. Both are currently living in the Union Gospel Mission, and both are near the end of completing their work in UGM programs. Both have been homeless in Salem for years. Their comments were very valuable, and they patiently answered many questions from Task Force members. They were open, articulate and candid. They answered questions about patterns of drug use and negative behaviors often commented on in the Task Force. They mentioned the importance of access to bus service. They noted the need for housing support as homeless citizens are working to return to housing, to re-uniting their families, and to finding employment.
The Task Force for Solutions for Downtown Homelessness is still conducting its work. However, they are near the end of that work and will soon present the fruits of their efforts to Salem City Council.