Communities have been registering as Continuums of Care (CoCs) since the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Office of Special Needs Assistance Programs started the program in 1994. Registration allows communities to apply for McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act funding.
Initially, Marion and Polk counties had their own CoC, which was administered by the Mid-Willamette Valley Community Action Agency. But, in July 2011, the steering committee of the Mid-Valley Housing and Services Collaborative (the CoC) voted unanimously to join the 26-county Rural Oregon Continuum of Care (ROCC), aka, the Balance of State CoC. ROCC is currently administered by Community Action Partners of Oregon and has two staff.
The decision to join ROCC was based on concerns about growing federal expectations for data collection and reporting, the availability of “bonus” funds given to CoCs when they merge, and assurances from ROCC that the projects serving Marion and Polk counties would be funded the year following the merger and “supported” thereafter. In recent years, however, CoC Program funding flowing to projects serving Marion and Polk counties has steadily decreased.
At the same time, community concern about homelessness was growing. According to the survey, “[w]hile homelessness was the top concern of Salem residents in 2017 (26%) and 2016 (17%), even more residents listed it as the most important issue for elected officials in Salem to do something about in 2018.”
In 2016, the Mid-Willamette Homeless Initiative (MWHI) Task Force determined that continued membership in the ROCC should be reviewed, and it made that endeavor part of the MWHI Strategic Plan. In April 2017, Salem’s Affordable Housing, Homelessness and Social Services Strategic Plan Work Group recommended that the City include re-formation of the local CoC in its strategic plan. The recommendation eventually found its way into the one-year work plan of the MWHI Homeless Program Coordinator overseeing implementation of the MWHI Strategic Plan.
In March 2019, after additional research and analysis, the MWHI Steering Committee concluded that the best way forward was as a regional CoC and shared their findings with other government officials and homeless housing and service providers in the region.
On April 24, Polk County adopted a resolution supporting the formation of a regional CoC. Marion County adopted a similar resolution on May 22, and the City of Salem followed suit on June 10, 2019. The cities of Keizer, Silverton and Detroit also adopted resolutions of support.
Featured photo: the MWHI Steering Committee at its May 2019 meeting. From left: Tom Pessemier, City Manager, City of Independence; Kristin Retherford, Urban Development Director, City of Salem; Colm Willis, Marion County Commissioner; Cathy Clark, Mayor, City of Keizer; Sean O’Day, Executive Director, Mid-Willamette Valley Council of Governments; Jan Calvin, Consultant to MWVCOG; Denise VanDyke, MWVCOG Staff; and Scott McClure, City Manager, City of Monmouth.