Southtown Corvallis neighborhood solutions and recommendations for serving houseless communities and the housing crisis in Corvallis.
Organized by citizens / Living Southtown for City Council, Mayor, City Manager and Department Directors, HOPE Committee, Service Providers, ODOT, and interested citizens and organizations
Motivation: In recent years and prior community discussions, the South Corvallis community has not been well involved or engaged in planning efforts around serving the homeless community, yet our neighborhoods have been increasingly used and identified as sites for solutions from service providers and City-wide initiatives. Following a neighborhood survey and virtual meeting in January 2021, with over 125 respondents and attendees, a work group was created to dig deeper into detailed solutions to address the question: how can our South Corvallis neighborhoods be most effective in providing solutions for the homeless community?
Key South Corvallis concerns that came through our survey and discussion:
• Southtown Corvallis has not been well involved in prior discussions and forums around solutions for homelessness - Many residents feel our community voice and concerns have been discounted and dismissed, while City initiatives, interim solutions, and service providers have targeted and become more established in certain areas of our community (e.g., BMX Park, ODOT riverfront lands, Unity Shelter, and the Housing First Budget Inn).
• Southtown Corvallis has carried a disproportionate load from impacts of homelessness and encampments, both before and during the pandemic - South Corvallis has dealt with ongoing and increasing crime, safety risks, commuter conflicts, trash, and blight from both unmanaged and managed camps, shelter users, and the compounding impacts of these communities in specific areas, such as the BMX park.
• Camping and trash build-up in riparian/floodplain areas is dangerous for everyone - Southtown Corvallis includes the City's lowest elevation floodplain and delta area, and is surrounded by the Willamette and Marys Rivers, the Mill Race, and extensive wetlands. Camps and trash in these areas are more likely to be inundated, unseen, and create safety/fire risks and environmental problems.
• Impacts from the unmanaged tent encampments and service provisions in the Highway 99 / Marys River bottleneck area have created increasing stress, dangers, and confusion for campers/shelter users, drivers, bikers, walkers, and area businesses - This critical corridor is our primary connection to downtown Corvallis and key services. The City-authorized 'managed camp' in the BMX Park and Unity Shelter exacerbated these already overwhelming problems.
• The present concentration of service providers, managed, and unmanaged camps in Hwy 99 bottleneck and Willamette-Marys-Mill Race confluence is at odds with several careful community plans and visions, including the community supported Urban Renewal District (2019) created to address issues of blight, safety, and economic uplift, the South Corvallis Area Refinement plan (1999) that idenitified the Mary-Willamette confluence as a high potential for community access and development, the Mixed Use Transitional zone (1999) designed to transition specific properties to less intensive uses, and the Willamette River Greenway (State Planning Goal 15 - 1976) created to revitilize and protect the Willamette River corridor.
In our constructive examination of common solutions to serving homelessness, and the survey responses from South Corvallis community, we identified key solutions that are well suited to what South Corvallis offers:
• Affordable and low-income housing options – South Corvallis offers some of Corvallis' most affordable homes and apartments, and has some of the City's most extensive buildable residentially zoned property. With rising real estate markets, we should continue to protect affordability in our neighborhoods along with dedicated low-income housing options
• Carefully located housing/support services - South Corvallis is home to projects and developments for numerous service providers, including the interim location for the Unity Men's Cold Weather Shelter, Housing First-Budget Inn, DEVNW, CARDV, and can likely accommodate more, provided they do not add stress/safety issues to riparian areas, Hwy 99 corridor, parks and pathways, and especially the Hwy 99-Marys River bottleneck area
• Semi-permanent housing/shelter options like microshelters / ADU / rv / car camping are more effective and less impactful than unmanaged or managed camping situations, and would work well in many Southtown neighborhoods that have additional on-street parking capacity and larger residential lots
• An equitable City-wide response to extreme situations of homelessness that demand managed/unmanaged camps and managed rv lots must be shared with other City neighborhoods. In Southtown, these solutions should avoid commuter trails, Hwy 99 corridor, and riparian areas, and would be ideally situated in open/visible/serviceable areas (e.g., parking lots, vacant lots, sports fields).