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Salem drops proposed shelter site for the homeless

The empty lot along Wallace Road Northwest is no longer being considered because it has "substantial wetlands" that are prone to flooding, the city said on Tuesday.

SALEM, Ore. — The proposed location for a tiny house village for the homeless in West Salem is no longer moving forward, the city said. 

On Tuesday, the city said the empty lot along 2700 Wallace Road Northwest is no longer being considered because the grassland area has "substantial wetlands" that are prone to flooding, according to a study the city initiated. The city went on to say it doesn't own enough space on the paved portion of the property to host a shelter and is now looking for other properties. 

The intention of the shelter was to house up to 60 unsheltered people, with priority given to women and those over the age of 55, according to the Statesman Journal.

The city's plan for a homeless village along Wallace Road Northwest was approved in September, and had faced mounting neighborhood backlash. It sits between two apartment complexes and less than a quarter mile from an elementary school and a retirement community. 

Credit: KGW
Lot along Wallace Road Northwest that was being considered for Salem's homeless village

Amid a housing crisis, city staff moved forward with the plan quickly. The city’s official state of emergency surrounding homelessness legally allows officials to cut through bureaucratic red tape in an effort to get people housed. In this case, neighbors told KGW that meant they were left in the dark.

RELATED: 'This place is a godsend': New men's homeless shelter gives Salem's bed count a needed boost

“The other apartments next to us weren't notified. The school around us wasn't notified. Families around us weren't notified,” said Adam Lidren, who lives in an apartment complex near the lot.

By failing to notify the community, Lidren added, city officials made an avoidable error: they voted to place a village on a property that often floods. 

The city planned to build the homeless village with federal COVID aid money as part of a larger effort to address homelessness. An estimated 1,500 people are currently experiencing homelessness in the area, according to the Statesman Journal. A 2019 count tallied 1,095 people in Marion and Polk counties.

RELATED: City scraps one of three sites for sanctioned homeless villages in Portland

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