The Mid-Willamette Valley Homeless Alliance is a Continuum of Care (CoC). You may have heard our name used synonymously with the “Alliance” or “CoC,” because we use these terms interchangeably to describe our organization.
Our official name is Mid-Willamette Valley Homeless Alliance. To shorten it we use “the Alliance,” but are categorized as a CoC and designated as “OR-504 – Salem/Marion, Polk Counties Continuum of Care.”
As a result of our work, individuals (including unaccompanied youth) and families experiencing homelessness receive needed community services and move into transitional and permanent housing — with the goal of long-term stability.
Purpose of a CoC Program
CoCs were originally developed by the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) and are designed to:
- Promote community-wide planning and the strategic use of resources to address homelessness.
- Improve coordination and integration with mainstream resources and other programs targeted to people experiencing homelessness.
- Improve data collection and performance measurement.
- Allow each community to tailor its program to the particular strengths and challenges within that community.
A CoC is expected to address homelessness by identifying needs through a coordinated community-based process, and then by building a system of housing and services that addresses those needs. To maintain an effective homeless system, HUD identifies these fundamental components:
- Prevention services
- Outreach and assessment
- Emergency shelter
- Transitional housing
- Permanent supportive housing
- Permanent affordable housing
- Supportive services
Behind the scenes, it’s a lot of work. It can be difficult to improve the system of services that addresses homelessness. Some of what we do in our community includes gathering organizations to share information and best practices, collecting and analyzing data, evaluating the quality of services already delivered in the community, identifying and aligning different resources, and making sure the region is prepared to submit an annual application for funding.
Each year, HUD awards CoC program funding competitively to nonprofit organizations, states, and units of local governments and enters into contracts for services. While applying for and obtaining HUD funding is a key priority, a CoC’s role in the community is typically much broader. CoCs develop plans to improve coordination and communication among members of the homeless service system and service providers. We help share knowledge about available resources, increase program and service coordination, improve referral networks, and develop new joint projects.
CoCs are also tasked with tracking and managing the homeless community in their area, and play an important role in collecting and reporting data in the Homeless Management Information System (HMIS).
A Brief History of Our CoC
A CoC for the Marion-Polk region began back in 1994. In Marion and Polk counties, the program was originally coordinated by Mid-Willamette Valley Community Action until 2011 when the group of participating agencies from the region decided to join 26 other counties in the Rural Oregon Continuum of Care (“ROCC”).
In 2016, Marion County, Polk County, the City of Salem, and the City of Keizer organized a task force on homelessness, which recommended a review of the region’s participation in ROCC. This analysis, conducted in 2019, resulted in jurisdictions passing resolutions and service agencies offering letters of support to create a new CoC for the Marion-Polk region. Key organizations formed a development council that prepared an application to HUD, which was approved in December 2019.
Since that date, we have gratefully served our community and are increasingly committed to continuing our work to end and prevent homelessness in the Marion-Polk region.