Corvallis mayoral candidates on houselessness

by | Oct 29, 2022 | 2022 Elections, Candidates on Houselessness, Miscellaneous | 0 comments

In collaboration with Unity Shelter, I asked the three candidates running for Corvallis mayor five questions about houselessness and how the city should deal with the issue. Here are their answers, lightly edited only as necessary for clarity.

Roen Hogg

Instead of answering the specific questions, Mr. Hogg provided this statement:

The role of mayor is not to advocate one’s own personal agenda but rather to help individuals and organizations present their ideas and to help facilitate solutions by bringing different groups together to achieve a common goal.

I was on the City Council when Barbara Ross advocated for Housing First. As you know the goal of this program is to first get people housed and then bring the needed services to them. Though this program existed in other cities, it had never been done before in Corvallis.

Barbara was a strong advocate for evidence-based decision-making. She presented the data and the facts regarding Housing First programs in other cities. She showed the numbers that made it clear that this program was successful. She then educated the community about this program. In particular she explained how it would work in Corvallis, where it would be located, who would provide oversight and case management, and how the program would be financially managed. She then did additional outreach by offering tours of the facility to see the building and to meet in person the case workers and some of the individual clients who would benefit from this program. And finally she hosted a community outreach and fundraiser.

Housing First in Corvallis was a success. It successfully helped others and it was successfully introduced to the community. This evidence-based approach is one that other individuals and organizations can emulate by looking at what works in other cities and then making a case for doing something similar in Corvallis.

There is strong support in our community to help others with programs that have a proven track record of being successful. The mayor can help facilitate this process which will give the City Council and the community the data and information they need to make an informed decision.

Charles Maughan

1. What is the proper role of the city of Corvallis in providing services to people who are unsheltered? To list a few examples: Should the city be working to provide shelter? Permanent supported housing? Affordable housing? Case management and medical services for houseless people? What has the city gotten right in its approach to houselessness? What could the city do better?

The city needs to take an active role in helping those in need, but Corvallis cannot shoulder the responsibility alone. The city of Corvallis needs to work closely with our legislators to acquire funding and assistance to address the needs of our community. Although the city cannot provide services directly, we can use existing resources to acquire land which could be used to leverage funding for affordable housing projects. Corvallis has done a good job of directing funds to service providers and supporting their efforts.

2. Considering the recommendations from the city-county HOPE (Home, Opportunity, Planning and Equity) advisory board: Which ones would you place the highest priority on and why? What items would you add to the list of recommendations and why? What role should the city and the City Council take in implementing and funding those priorities?

As a member of the HOPE advisory board, I helped to develop the recommendations. But if I were to choose one to prioritize, it would be No. 6, “Benton County needs a 24/7/365 emergency sheltering system for all populations with onsite resources at any shelter location to transition people out of homelessness.” This would be closely followed by No. 10, “Increase development or acquisition of affordable housing units for permanent supportive housing (PSH) by 20 new units per year for the next eight years to add at a minimum 160 new units of PSH in Benton County.” The overall list is thorough and is data-driven. The city and City Council invested in the formation of HOPE and should use its resources and partnerships to achieve the goals of the HOPE advisory board.

3. The Corvallis Police Department has launched a trial program with the Benton County Health Department to respond to people experiencing mental health crises; many of those people are unsheltered. The program is reminiscent of the CAHOOTS program in Eugene, but with at least one key difference: CAHOOTS calls are responded to by a medic and an experienced crisis worker. In Corvallis, a uniformed officer and a mental health professional respond to calls. Is this the correct approach? Why or why not?

While I supported the implementation of the trial program, I have concerns. Many people who are unsheltered and/or experiencing mental health crises, have experienced trauma that could be triggered by the presence of an armed police officer. I would like to see us move toward Eugene’s model.

4. Estimates are that the city spends tens of thousands of dollars each year posting and clearing camps where unsheltered people have been living. Do you think this is the best approach, or are there other strategies the city could consider – for example, should the city work with providers to create a managed camp or a sanctioned site where people who are unsheltered could settle?

The current system does not work. It is expensive and does nothing to remedy the cause, and it traumatizes both the people whose camps are being cleared and the people doing the clearing. I fully support the creation of a managed or sanctioned camp. Allowing people to remain in place will give them some stability and allow providers to better assist them.

5. A proposal is in the works to establish a “rolling moratorium” on posting and clearing camps in city parks for a certain length of time; for example, specific parks would be identified as not to be posted or cleared for specific time periods. At the end of the period, it would be clear which park would be next on the rolling moratorium, and support from nonprofit providers and volunteers would assist in movement from one site to the next. Do you think this proposal is worth exploring? What do you see as its benefits and drawbacks?

In dealing with this crisis, all ideas are worth exploring. While I served on council, I advocated for the city to stop posting and clearing camps, until we could identify a location for people to go. The benefits, as stated above, would give people some stability and make it easier to access services. This would also allow us to keep waterways free of waste and greatly reduce the expense of cleanup. A potential drawback would be if too many locations were put on “moratorium” as this would continue to burden the city.

Andrew Struthers

1. What is the proper role of the city of Corvallis in providing services to people who are unsheltered? To list a few examples: Should the city be working to provide shelter? Permanent supported housing? Affordable housing? Case management and medical services for houseless people? What has the city gotten right in its approach to houselessness? What could the city do better?

The causes and issues related to those unsheltered are complex and require the city to work with many partners; Benton County, the Community Services Consortium, service providers, businesses, neighborhoods, and many others. I will also admit I do not have all the answers or plans, but I am committed to working on the problem and being a leading voice in finding solutions. I believe the city’s primary role is to assist in securing funding, navigating land use regulations, building and project permitting, land acquisition, and working with residents to understand the plans moving forward.

Recently the city, along with Benton County, became the recipient of $ 1 million over the next two years thanks to Oregon House Bill 4123. Funding like this helps with the coordination between the two entities (and other partners) and allows for hiring additional staffing. The city has a social service fund, $360,000, created in 2020 as part of the local option levy for local grants. These grants help the operation of local service providers.

Overall the city has a housing shortage, which is magnified for our most vulnerable population. On a positive note, the city has been actively working with local partners to provide more shelter, permanent supportive housing (PSH), and affordable housing. Funding was provided to Corvallis Housing First in the amount of $625,000 for four-units of PSH. The city has placed out $1 million for proposals at the end of September for shelter and PSH with special state funding, and there is another $1 million to be made available with federal HOME funds.

In April 2022, the City Council provided $400,000 in affordable housing construction excise tax (AHCET) for a project in South Corvallis. These funds were provided to the developers to secure and receive state funding to complete the project, which they successfully did. This affordable housing project will provide approximately 60 units of affordable housing to individuals/families at or below 60% of the area’s median income.


These funding opportunities are just a few examples of the city working on expanding housing options for those unsheltered. Additionally, the city, in total, has helped provide either in passthrough or direct funding over $4 million to assist with operations, shelters, permanent supportive housing, or other housing projects.


One thing I would like to see the city doing better is having a dedicated FTE as a point person from the city’s perspective. Right now, we rely on our Community Development Director and Housing Neighborhood Services Division Manager, who are excellent individuals. These two are doing fantastic work for the city with unsheltered work; they cannot focus on all aspects of their job. By having someone who works with city partners, service providers, businesses, and the unsheltered, the new positions will be able to assist and guide our city forward. They will also be able to work more directly with those unsheltered about what programs and assistance are available within our
city and county.

2. Considering the recommendations from the city-county HOPE (Home, Opportunity, Planning and Equity) advisory board: Which ones would you place the highest priority on and why? What items would you add to the list of recommendations and why? What role should the city and the City Council take in implementing and funding those priorities?

There are two recommendations that I would call out as being my highest priority; recommendations No. 1 and No. 6. Recommendation No. 1 is about “Facilitate and coordinate data improvement efforts with community partners,” and can be vital to having a successful system across the city and county. Improving data coordination will assist all service providers regarding
who needs what type of services, how to help individuals transition between housing types, and provide better coordination amongst all key stakeholders.

Regarding recommendation No. 6, “Provide organizational capacity to facilitate and coordinate providers in establishing a 24/7/365 Sheltering System for all populations with onsite resources at shelter locations to transition people out of homelessness,” this goes without saying that we need more housing. The city has a significant housing shortage impacting our most vulnerable population, and we need to improve our sheltering system to assist them.

These two recommendations, in my opinion, go in tandem together. As we improve our data collection and coordination, we will understand the genuine support and sheltering needs in Corvallis and the county. However, we know we have the need now and should be working to increase the sheltering system now.

The recommendations provided by the HOPE Board have been helpful for long-term planning and moving the efforts of the city and county forward. However, I have heard personally that these recommendations only focus on the long-term and do not provide specific recommendations for short-term solutions. We need to work on ensuring we have clear short-term goals and
recommendations, especially since many goals will take time, such as building more permanent supportive housing.

A lot of state and federal funding is available right now, and that funding will not always be there. The city, working with the county, CSC staff, and service providers, needs to be applying for grants and other funding assistance to achieve the goals and recommendations set out by the HOPE Board. Currently, the city also has put out over $1 million in special state funding and has another $1 million in HOME funds. When evaluating proposals, we need to ensure the funding can maximize outcomes. For the City Council, our elected officials can help organize community letters of funding support. When possible, work with state and federal elected officials to tell the story of Corvallis and how they can help Corvallis and Benton County in its long-term goals.

Finally, councilors should be in the community explaining what we are trying to achieve and, when needed having difficult
conversations on why we are placing certain services in a specific location.

To meet all the recommendations and goals of the HOPE Board, this will take a genuine team effort with elected officials, city and county staff, service providers, businesses, and community members.

3. The Corvallis Police Department has launched a trial program with the Benton County Health Department to respond to people experiencing mental health crises; many of those people are unsheltered. The program is reminiscent of the CAHOOTS program in Eugene, but with at least one key difference: CAHOOTS calls are responded to by a medic and an experienced crisis worker. In Corvallis, a uniformed officer and a mental health professional respond to calls. Is this the
correct approach? Why or why not?

I want to start by applauding the Corvallis Police Department and Benton County Health Department for coming together and beginning the CORE (Crisis Outreach Response Engage) program and team in July 2021. While, the program has only been running for a year, and we have been seeing success and are looking to expand the team. As the question points out, there is a difference between our program and the city of Eugene’s, specifically the use of law enforcement in Corvallis. At this time, I
believe we are using the right approach; however, with time, I hope we move away from this model and move to the CAHOOTS version.

The question calls out one of the key differences and factors, which is the use of medics and an experienced crisis worker. There is another factor that needs to be recognized and explained. The CAHOOTS program is not run directly by the city of Eugene or Lane County but by a provider, White Bird Clinic. The overall program is housed in the Eugene Police Department and uses city vehicles; the White Bird Clinic runs the program. To be successful in Corvallis, I believe we will need a provider, either an existing one or a new one, to commit to running a CAHOOTS program. As mayor, I would work to commit resources (funding) to a program that a provider would run; currently, the city of Eugene spends about $1million on CAHOOTS. One positive coming to Oregon is federal assistance through Medicaid for CAHOOTS programs.

I know CAHOOTS is successful in Eugene; work needs to be done before we get there here in Corvallis. We need to determine if a service provider can provide the CAHOOTS services and what funding the city would need to provide for the program to be successful. At this time, I commit to improving our current CORE program and working with all community partners in improving mental health services.

4. Estimates are that the city spends tens of thousands of dollars each year posting and clearing camps where unsheltered people have been living. Do you think this is the best approach, or are there other strategies the city could consider – for example, should the city work with providers to create a managed camp or a sanctioned site where people who are unsheltered could settle?

I’ll acknowledge that clearing and posting camps may not be the best use of city resources. However, there is a responsibility and need to balance camping, public health and access, and protecting our natural resources (waterways and natural features). At the same time, I do not believe camping or even managed camping is a sustainable long-term solution. We need to be
working to provide more shelter, permanent supportive housing, and other housing options. Though if managed camping was a tool used in Corvallis, the city would have a role to play. The primary role would be to assist other agencies and service providers. As it has been pointed out many times, the city itself is not a service provider and should not be directly running a managed camp. The city should be working with service providers on land identification for site location, providing money for acquiring land or operations, and other resources to make a managed camp successful.

For myself, managed camping should not be used as a long-term solution; even the HOPE recommendations call out not being a preferred option. However, if the resources are available, both funding and personally, then I can support managed camping being used in a short-term solution. Again the city plays an active support role.

5. A proposal is in the works to establish a “rolling moratorium” on posting and clearing camps in city parks for a certain length of time; for example, specific parks would be identified as not to be posted or cleared for specific time periods. At the end of the period, it would be clear which park would be next on the rolling moratorium, and support from nonprofit providers and volunteers would assist in movement from one site to the next. Do you think this proposal is worth
exploring? What do you see as its benefits and drawbacks?

For the proposal on the “rolling moratorium,” I believe as a short-term solution, it is worth exploring. I am open to trying new things and believe if a well-organized plan develops and is brought forward, I can get behind it. As I have said with those proposing the project and have publicly said at council meetings, I reserve my right as a policy decision-maker to thoroughly review the plan before voting to implement it.

I believe there are a few things that need to be included as part of the implementation of the new plan. The first is to ensure geographic equity so that no specific area of our city takes the entire burden of the plan. Currently, we are seeing areas around South Corvallis and downtown bearing the most significant camping impact.

Secondly, if parks or other public spaces are to be used, we must ensure good community conversation and outreach takes place. We cannot expect going into new neighborhoods and parks will not have any pushback. We have seen that not having these conversations early can cause a whole plan to fall apart in the past years.

If we are going to implement this soon, then there are key actions that need to happen. First, we need to get all the key stakeholders, city staff, county staff, service providers, and some elected officials together to design a program framework immediately, including an evaluation component. Once we have that framework ready, it should be provided publicly for one to two for feedback by the public and City Council. If the plan is adapted, we must implement, evaluate, and modify it if
necessary. The modification includes taking additional input from stakeholders, community members, and businesses.

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