Saturday, February 27, 2016

MWHITF: Scrutiny

Revised: December 2018

By Sarah Owens and Michael Livingston


[Originally posted under the title, "MWHITF: Blogging Truth to Privilege"]

Bayard Rustin
The usual expression is, "speaking truth to power", a phrase believed to have been coined by Bayard Rustin that spread with the 1955 publication of "Speak Truth to Power: A Quaker Search for an Alternative to Violence."  Speaking truth to power is what the national leaders of civil and human rights movements across the globe did and died for.  It's not, let's be clear, a local or ordinary sort of thing.

This blog, of course, is both local and ordinary.  Its focus could hardly be more mundane; neighborhood association meetings and activities, and efforts to address local poverty and homelessness in the central area.

So why should some members of the MWHI task force [Bruce Bailey] be claiming that the blog is not to be believed; that it is "adversarial" and "judgmental", "disparaging, sarcastic and cynical"; that it's "breaking people down who are willing to put themselves in front of a community poised and insistent upon action"?

Well, remember the culture we are dealing with.  Another factor is privilege; the complaints are coming from privileged individuals, predominantly white men, who're used to running the show, or at least their show, and likely relatively unaccustomed to receiving anything remotely resembling negative feedback. 

Serving on a public body when one is not prepared for public scrutiny is no doubt stressful.  We appreciate that.  But refusing to hear what a member of the public has to say because the person isn't willing to give a name (as homeless people often are not), or because the message isn't one you like, or isn't delivered the way you think it ought to be, is not the answer.

For the record, we have received a few comments and corrections to the blog by email, and we updated the appropriate post(s) accordingly every time or, in one case, explained why we disagreed and posted the opposing view in the comments.  We have thus far received not one complaint about a material misrepresentation of fact. 



Saturday, February 20, 2016

MWHITF: Goals and expectations

Progress Report on Salem City Council's 2015 Goals


Revised: December 2018

By Sarah Owens and Michael Livingson

[Originally posted under the title, "MWHITF: Next Steps"]

Monday, February 22, 2016, the Salem City Council will receive a report on what's been done toward reaching their goal of creating a well-planned community.  As shown above, the first meeting of the Mid-Willamette Homeless Initiative is being reported as a sign of progress toward that goal.

According to the Statesman Journal, the task force will, at its next meeting, "delve into the housing market and development opportunities." And, by the third or fourth meeting, they might start looking at recommendations.  (Co-Chair Carlson has twice said that what she expects ultimately from the task force is a list of strong recommendations).

So things would appear to be moving rather quickly.  But what are they moving toward, exactly?

In January, the Mayor told the Statesman Journal that she wanted the task force to "identify areas, projects or programs that aren't working as effectively as they need to be, stop any waste that is occurring, and redirect those funds and those activities."  However, her co-chair Janet Carlson later indicated the task force would not be looking at program effectiveness.  Based on her questions at the first meeting, and the short shrift given the "Services Inventory" portion of the agenda, it would indeed appear that Carlson expects to focus on housing and housing funding, not services. 

Here's what the other members of the task force said they wanted to see happen:

Jennifer Wheeler
Co-Chair Wheeler said she "would like to meet some of the community members who are actually doing the work and find out what services are being provided, and maybe where the holes are, the gaps are that need to be filled."  She expressed concern about the "invisible homeless" in rural areas whom she wants to bring "into the light."  She was "very anxious to find out about services and how to connect people to those services."  
Warren Bednarz

Councilor Bednarz has taken the issue "to heart", spent a lot of time educating himself and feels that's the first thing community leaders need to do -- educate themselves, to know what services are out there, what can be combined, coordinated, etc., so "people don't have to scramble" to find them and so that "efforts can be coordinated."  What he wants out of the initiative is "an action plan, not a discussion, not a report."  He would also like to have a homeless person or a home-insecure individual(s) on or closely allied with the task force because he thinks their knowledge/experience/insight would be helpful.

Steve Bobb, Sr.
Steve Bobb, a Marine Corps Vietnam War veteran and formerly on the Council of the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde, joined the task force because he's familiar with veterans who are "on the streets and the issues that put them there." He's been on a few boards "where they have meeting after meeting, and after a little while, that tends to make me a little crazy" and he hopes the task force will be different and actually help people.

Bruce Bailey
Bruce Bailey, Union Gospel Mission, also wanted to see the Initiative result in an action plan.  He would like the task force to focus not on ending homelessness, but on breaking the cycle of homelessness.

Irma Oliveros
Irma Oliveros, homeless liason for the Salem-Keizer School District who also lives in Polk County, sees a steady increase in the number of homeless families and students.  Although she is "not sure homelessness can be ended", she "sure would like to see it minimized."

Jon Reeves
Jon Reeves, Director of the Mid-Willamette Valley Community Action Agency, says we need "community solutions."  Referring to the 70+ members of the audience, "I don't know that I've ever seen this much interest in helping the homeless finding stable housing and self-sufficiency."

Verena Wessel
Verena Wessel, serving as a mere citizen (with 15 years experience in delivering social services to homeless individuals) says "We've got to get some traction.  It's not going to get any better."

Chief Moore

SPD Chief Moore is also concerned about the "invisible homeless" and wants to see better coordination of services.

Sheriff Myers
Sheriff Myers feels the criminal justice system is not the right place for people who are homeless, but that's typically where they end up.  So he wants the task force to help him "do right by these people" who typically have mental health/substance abuse issues.

Judge Leith
Judge Leith, who presides over the Marion County Drug Court, believes homelessness is of "truly primary importance to the community."

On hearing comments like these, one might expect the task force to have a conversation about pooling a few thousand dollars for a consultant to give them something like a "Homeless Needs Assessment" or other serious examination of area programs and services.  Like the Chair said at the first meeting, they "need some very basic information", some objective basis for evaluating program and project effectiveness, gaps in services, duplication, etc.  The providers themselves obviously cannot do it, nor can staff, given their other duties.  But it would seem to be something that the task force needs for their work.

2018 Update:  The task force did not ultimately attempt to evaluate program and project effectiveness, gaps in services, duplication, etc.  But, in 2018, Salem and Marion County, along with Keizer, Monmouth and Independence, did pool their resources and hired someone to conduct the necessary research and analysis.  Unfortunately, she quit after ten months.  For details, see "Homeless Program Coordinator Calls It Quits" (2 November 2018).

Friday, February 19, 2016

MWHITF: Basic Information

West Coast Mayors
Revised: December 2018

By Sarah Owens and Michael Livingston 


[Originally posted under the title, "MWHITF: Before we try to solve the homeless problem."]

Remember the west coast Mayors' summit on homelessness that took place a few months ago?  One of their conclusions was that "We don't have enough data to even understand what is causing the homelessness we have in the streets of our cities, so data is one of the things we want to do better."

The Mid-Willamette Homeless Initiative Task Force would seem to have the same problem.

"Before we try to solve the homeless problem," said the acting Chair at the task force's first meeting, "we need some very basic information."  She then posed eight questions:
1. Who are the homeless in Marion and Polk Counties?

2. Who are the chronically homeless in Marion and Polk Counties?

3. Is there a standard definition of a "chronically homeless" individual compared to a "homeless" individual?

4. Is it important to make the distinction and why?

5. How many homeless people are there in Marion and Polk Counties?

6. Who counts the numbers and how are they counted?

7. Why with all the low-income housing, Section 8 vouchers, grants, etc., can we not place anyone who needs a permanent home into a permanent home?

8. What barriers do homeless people encounter and what services or tools do we currently have to address them?
The task force was given some numbers from the 2015 homeless count, but while that census is generally acknowledged to be the best method for developing valid trend data, it might not be the best source of information for the task force's purposes.  Researchers say that the question of how many people are homeless "is both misleading and nearly impossible to answer in any precise way."

question — “How many people are homeless?” — is both misleading and nearly impossible to answer in any precise way, - See more at:
There was a panel of experts to help out with last two questions.  Below is a recap of what was said. 

Questions for the Panel

Andy Wilch, SHA Admin
Citing data from Multifamily NW's 2015 fall report and SMI CRE numbers, SHA Administrator Andy Wilch told the task force that there's not enough housing because the vacancy rate dropped 13% from spring 2015, and has not risen, allowing rents in the Salem area to rise 10%, and landlord incentives to decrease by 28%.

In other words, the problem is demand.  Wilch also cited data from the recent Salem Housing Needs Assessment that, of the 57,000 households in the Salem MSA, 37% earn $35,000 or less, "so it's an economic issue, as well."  He also pointed out that "hard to house" populations cannot compete in the marketplace. 

Shelly Wilkins-Ehenger
Shelly Wilkins-Ehenger, Administrator for the Marion County Housing Authority (housing outside Salem and Keizer's UGB), said of 700 vouchers issued in 2015, only 128 families had been able to find homes, and the vacancy rate was, according to her information, less than 1%.
Linda Strike, ARCHES

Linda Strike with the Mid-Willamette Valley Community Action Agency said the clients in the ARCHES programs "like Section 8" had had similar problems trying to rent "even though we would pay for them."  She identified having a criminal history or a "very bad rental" history as barriers.  She said MWVCAA has a program designed to help homeless individuals overcome such barriers, but the funding for it was coming to an end.     

Craig Bazzi, CARS
Craig Bazzi with Community Action Reentry Services confirmed that being recently incarcerated acts as a barrier.

Chief Moore commented that he suspected there are a lot of homeless folks who're not even on a housing voucher waiting list or in some sort of program "like Section 8."

It's not clear whether the Chair was satisfied with the answers she received.  The west coast mayors ultimately decided to pool their money to develop a template and collect data.  "Beyond data collection, the mayors also hope to study specific programs from each city – such as San Francisco's Navigation Center."  How the task force plans to approach its work remains to be seen.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

MWHITF: First Meeting

The New MWHI Webpage (text is from the media release)

Revised: December 2018

By Sarah Owens and Michael Livingston

The Mid-Valley Homeless Initiative task force held its first meeting yesterday.  The video is posted here.

Of the 20 members appointed, 16 were present.  Absent: Gladys Blum, Kim Freeman, Patty Ignatowski, Shaney Starr.

The Statesman Journal headline reads "Homeless Initiative Members Press for Change."  The article  says "several members articulated that they hope this committee will be able to bring about real change."

This is very Salem:  publicly hoping = pressing.  The several members who spoke of the need for change were Warren Bednarz, Bruce Bailey, Chief Moore (better coordination) and Sheriff Myers ("the homeless don't belong in the criminal justice system, but that's where they end up").

But change is not what Co-Chair Carlson envisioned for the task force when she repeated earlier statements that she wanted the task force to come up with recommendations that would put "meat on the bones" of the 10-Year Plan. 

Co-Chair Peterson Opened the Meeting
The task force members were arranged in a square, the four co-chairs seated at their own table at the far end of the Anderson Room, under the display screen, the side opposite having their backs to 70+ people crammed into the other half of the room.  Many in attendance were technical advisers to the task force.  Just a handful of audience members were not representing media or a service organization of some sort. 

Audience (partial)
The meeting started 15 minutes late with comments from the Co-Chairs, followed by introductions all around.

When it came his turn, Jon Reeves, Executive Director of the Mid-Willamette Community Action Agency, commented on the attendance, saying the interest in homelessness was rare and much needed if the initiative was to have any success.  

Mayor Peterson remarked, "We are just beginning what will take a community focus."      

Co-Chair Carlson Querys Task Force Panel
After introductions, the "orientation" began with Commissioner Carlson's Daily Show video, following which, the air began to thicken with jargon and carbon dioxide, as all available oxygen gradually left the room.

Councilor Bednarz called a halt at 5:50.  (Chair-for-the-meeting Peterson had left by then.)  He wanted some "idea where we're headed", that it was 41 days until the next meeting, and he "wanted some action tonight", or "at least homework" for the task force members.  He did not get either. 
Councilor Bednarz

Co-Chair Carlson assured him that she and her fellow Co-Chairs would be debriefing this meeting and planning future meetings, and would be happy to receive his input.  She told the Statesman Journal that they might be able to start looking at recommendations by the third or fourth meeting.

A total of eight meetings remain within which the task force is scheduled to complete its work: March 29, May 2, June 6, July 20, September 19, October 17, November 17 and December 1. 

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Minutes 2/16/16

February 16, 2016

David Dahle, Chair
Woody Dukes
Brock Campbell
Michael Livingston,
Vice Chair
Bob Hanna
Diana Dettwyler

Erma Hoffman, Treasurer
Bruce Hoffman
Neal Kern

Sarah Owens, Sec’y
Rebekah Engle

p=present a=absent e=excused

Residents: Bill Holmstrom, Deb Comini
Organizations: Don Russo, Elsinore Theater; Maurice Anderson, Salem Homeless Coalition
City and County Representatives: Councilor Bennett; Officer Vanmeter; Steve Powers, City Manager
Guest: Cara Kaser, Ward 1 Candidate

The regular meeting of the CanDo Board of Directors was called to order at 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday, February 16, 2016, at the First Christian Church at 685 Marion Street NE, Salem. David Dahle was in the chair and Sarah Owens acted as secretary.

The minutes of the January meeting were approved unanimously.

Officer Vanmeter reported that he continues to receive complaints about garbage under the bridge and talked about how he intends to clean it up using his contacts at UGM, the crisis response team, and a LEAD-type of approach. 

Councilor Bennett reported there would be another work session on the siting and design of a new police facility on February 22, followed by a public hearing on February 29. He also reported on the decisions made at the last Council meeting to create a quiet zone through downtown and to authorize use of Streets and Bridges General Obligation Bond funds for right-of-way acquisition and construction of Marine Drive NW south of the Urban Growth Boundary (near Cameo Drive NW), but not to allow opportunity purchases of right-of-way needs in Marion County for the Salem River Crossing Preferred Alternative (aka, the Third Bridge). 

In public comment, Cara Kaser introduced herself as a candidate for the Ward 1 position on the City Council, and treasurer Erma Hoffman explained that, with respect to the SPIF grant application for funds to purchase playground equipment for Pringle Park, she had simply chosen the “most expensive” option of three, and that if matching funds cannot be found, a less expensive option could be chosen.  

The board then heard a presentation by City Manager Steve Powers on his view of the City’s challenges and priorities over the next few years. 

There being no other business before the board, the meeting of the Board of Directors adjourned at 7:02 p.m. 

Saturday, February 13, 2016

MWHITF: Managing Expectations

Revised: December 2018

By Sarah Owens and Michael Livingston

[Originally posted under the title, "MWHITF, Awards, Agendas and Deliverables."

The Mid-Willamette Valley Council of Governments ended 2015 by giving Mayor Peterson an award for "Outstanding Leadership for Cooperative, Regional, Intergovernmental Initiatives."

Among Mayor Peterson's leadership accomplishments cited were her co-founding of the Mid-Willamette Homeless Initiative [MWHI] and her previous role as Chair of the Governor's Meth Task Force.

The Mayor, Councilors, and Staff
The fact that the Initiative's governing body has not held its first meeting, much less accomplished anything, makes the Council's decision painfully reminiscent of the Nobel Committee's 2009 decision to award newly elected President B. Obama the Peace prize. 

Mayor Anna Peterson told the Statesman Journal last month that she wanted the MWHI  to "identify areas, projects or programs that aren't working as effectively as they need to be, stop any waste that is occurring, and redirect those funds and those activities."  But, in a recent Willamette Wake Up interview, Commissioner Carlson said that it was important to support the area's social services providers because "they're doing great work" and the task force was not "here to suggest that what's happening now isn't working." 

Janet Carlson
Carlson also told listeners that a Daily Show video "really explains a lot about Housing First", and "really lays out a lot of information that's very digestible to the average citizen."

Asked about Jane Doe's disappointment that no member of the homeless community had been appointed to the MWHI task force, Carlson responded that, except for the first meeting, the task force would be taking public comment, and Ms. Doe, who was living in her car, could "step forward" and ask to be put on the task force's list of technical advisers. 

Carlson seemed to suggest that the affordable housing crisis was the result of two-income families who used to own homes being forced by the recession to move into apartments and not being able to buy homes now, when they could afford them, because credit is so tight.  She believes the task force should look for ways to help such families move into homes again, thereby freeing up apartments. 

Although Carlson said she's interested in Housing First, it wasn't clear what she meant by that.  Her comment about the Daily Show video "really explaining a lot about Housing First", and her comment about the "5% or whatever" of homeless who "choose to be homeless", suggest she is using the term rather loosely.

Asked what she'd like to see coming out of the task force by the end of the year, Carlson said she'd like to have some "very solid recommendations" that would put some "meat on the bones" of the 10-Year Plan.  According to the Charter, the stated purpose of the task force is to "identify and launch proven strategies."

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Lens on Salem Weekly

A homless resident of CANDO
Revised: December 2018

By Sarah Owens and Michael Livinston

In February 2016, with two weeks to go before the first meeting of the Mid-Willamette Homeless Initiative Task Force, Salem Weekly ran a feature titled "Can Salem Build a home for its homless" (sic), accompanied by a photographic trope of a hirsute, middle-aged addict living on the street, signaling that the focus of concern would be the demographic that so bothers downtown businesses.    

We'll start with the best bits.  First, it was good to see any local media attempting to inform on such issues.  Stories about poverty tend not to generate a lot of ad revenue.  Which may be why, aside from the "homeless resource guide" published in September 2016, Salem Weekly had not run an article about homelessness since 2009.  Second, the print edition had a really nice photo of Audrey Schackel. 

Audrey Schackel upper right corner

Unfortunately, however, the article was not very informative.  It might even be mis-informative.

For instance, introducing "Housing First" (HF) as a proven strategy without explicit reference to chronic homelessness is probably misleading.

People who are chronically homeless have experienced homelessness for at least a year – or repeatedly – while struggling with a disabling condition such as a serious mental illness, substance use disorder, or physical disability.

HF is a low-barrier, supportive housing model that emphasizes permanent supportive housing and has been around since 1988.  It's basically a policy choice to conserve resources by keeping the chronically homeless out of emergency rooms and jails.  Its success is directly related to the high failure rate of the traditional "housing ready" approach with the chronically homeless, and the high costs of maintaining chronically homeless persons on the streets through emergency services and institutions.  

But, unless a person has a disabling condition such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, recurrent major depression, PTSD or addictive disorders, that person does not need supportive housing, and it's not appropriate or cost-effective to provide it.

So, it's particularly misleading for the article to cite a four-year study as "show[ing] that moving homeless people into permanent housing quickly improved their lives and saved taxpayer money" without pointing out that the study was limited to homeless persons with chronic medical problems.   

It's true that Housing First principles can be applied to other populations, but its success with those populations has not been proven to the extent it has been proved to work for the chronically homeless.

The article claims "Salem Agencies Support the Philosophy", because T. J. Putman says the Salem Interfaith Housing Network "follows a Housing First model."  We think this is misleading for two reasons: 

SIHN member churches take turns hosting one of four families for a week at a time, once a quarter, in church facilities.  The adults must be sober, pass a background check, and participate in services.  If you know anything about Housing First, that is not Housing First.  For more, see "Sleeping in Church", 6/5/16, by Sarah Rohrs, here.

There is just no evidence that Salem agencies, in 2016, support the Housing First model.

The article implies under the heading, "PNW Innovates", that sanctioned camping and un-insulated sheds are somehow consistent with Housing First principles.  Again, this is misleading.  HUD does not recognize such accommodations as shelter, much less housing, nor should anyone else. 

The article closes with one last contradiction: 

[S]ome [people experiencing homelessness] will never want to be sheltered because of medical and personality qualities, an inability to comply with guidelines, and the requirement of some programs that participants be substance-abuse free and have no criminal record.  

The statement implies that the Housing First model will not be effective for such people.  But, people who will never want to be sheltered because of a medical qualities or program requirements are exactly who benefit from the Housing First approach. 

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Connecting in Polk County

By Sarah Rohrs

Official Community Connect Report

Audio Report, aired 3/11/16 on Willamette Wake Up

Event Flyer
Nearly homeless or already living in the streets, they all share something in common -  big needs for food, shelter, clothing, and health care for themselves, their children and their pets. 

And they hold out for something a little more intangible – compassion, understanding and also some hope for housing, jobs and other services that will make a difference in their lives.

Dozens of local poor and needy joined with volunteers at the end of January for the Polk Community Connect held at the Valley Live Center in Dallas. For one day the church was transformed into a veritable social service agency. 

With the doors about to open for the day-long Jan. 27 event, volunteers from one local church darted around the sanctuary folding, stacking and placing shirts, sweaters, pants, socks and shoes of all kinds.

The Sanctuary Transformed into a Clothing Store
Others set up booths to give out information and referrals for child care, veteran services, housing and job programs and other services.

In other rooms, volunteers got ready to repair bikes, cut hair and hand out backpacks, camping items and blankets.

The annual Polk County Connect helps give social service providers and social leaders a chance to better learn the needs of the homeless and poor, organizers said. 

They have a chance to connect with them and offer services to, possibly, get them off the street or just give them a little hope and lift in spirits.

Dental Care Waiting Room
The event also facilitates an area homeless survey that gives officials some kind of indication of how many homeless people are living in their communities. 

The Polk County day-long homeless survey differed significantly from Salem’s in that the homeless and poor can come to one spot and find services all under one roof. 

Meanwhile, Salem, volunteers went out in mobile teams to count people.

Waiting for families to stop by her table, Debra Montgomery with the  Community Action Head Start of Marion and Polk Counties said the event is “priceless” opportunity for social service agency representatives to connect to needy people all in one place. 

“We’re getting to know what they need and getting them the help they need,” Montgomery said.

The Salt Creek Baptist Church collects clothing for months, and has orchestrated the clothing give-away numerous times. Throughout the day, busy women replenished dwindling stacks of clothes and kept the piles neat.

Clothing is on Most Clients' List of Needs
 “We’ve done this for a few years so we’ve got a good system,” said Gayle Jurgensen of the church who added she enjoys taking part. “This is an incredible group of volunteers who make this possible. It’s a neat thing to do.” 

Nearly 50 men, women and children in strollers or holding a parent’s hand waited outside for the doors to open at 9:30 a.m. 
Two portable dental clinics awaited clients in the parking lot, and people milled around getting cups of coffee and water and signing up for animal care, dental care and other services.

Later in the day, one woman came out of the dental van smiling and beaming. Through large pieces of gauze in her mouth, she said she was glad finally to get several bad teeth removed.

Inside, the church kitchen people prepared plates with breakfast burritos with pieces of fruit and bread with other goodies donated by the Salvation Army and local businesses.

The First of Two Hot Meals 
The James2 community Kitchen passed out a few granola bars and oranges and gave out fliers about free meals and Marion Polk Food Share food distribution points in Dallas and Falls City.

In a spacious room transformed into a cafĂ©, Oregon Health and Science University students greeted guests and showed them to tables. Once seated, the students took their orders and delivered steaming plates of food to them. 

Student Pablo Newell said the volunteer day helps him and others become better aware of what needs exist in the community and also puts a human face on “public health” issues of poverty and other needs.

As people gathered at round tables to eat, East Valley Vineyard Church worship pastor
Singing in the Cafe
Michele Holland stood on a small stage with a guitar and sang songs about love and healing. Other musicians performed throughout the day, too.

“This is just the coolest thing,” Holland said. “I’m so happy to be part of it.”

Each homeless and poor person had a story and a long list of needs they wanted to get met at the event.

Bike Repair Room
Outside, a middle-aged homeless man named Stan sat in a plastic chair for a long wait to get inside for services. He got a card with the number 92 on it so 91 people were in front of him.

“I need pretty much everything they got to provide,” Stan said, adding that he is staying at the Salem Mission Faith Ministries until he can get back on his feet. Stan said he had been staying at Restoration House but had to leave when a disagreement broke out.

“It’s hard (to be homeless), especially when you don’t have a stable place and are under the control of others,” Stan said. 

Stan was one of numerous people – homeless or otherwise – who assembled near the Polk County Bridge to get a ride to the event. “I think this is really great. It’s nice that people go out and do all this for other people,” Stan said. 

Event Van
A homeless Salem man everyone calls Fate also rode in the van to the event. He arrived with a large backpack on his back, well-worn clothes and his dog who sat leashed and quietly at his feet. 

Fate said he is 31 years old and has been homeless for about a year. He said he lost his job. When his safety net fell apart he started living on the streets. 

As he waited to get inside, Fate said he most wanted to get a partially broken tooth fixed at the free dental labs, but was eager to see what else he might need. 

Eventually, Fate said he wants to go back to college and get a degree in theoretical science.

Fate said services for homeless people are okay in Salem, but could be better. He said better coordination is needed among agencies. As an example, he said he got a free tarp but it was too small for most tent sizes and he couldn’t use it.

For Some, the Connect is a Very Personal Statement
Single mothers and others loaded up on whatever else they could take with them. One woman with young children pushed a stroller with every available handle and space hanging and piled with clothes and other items.

A woman from a local Lions Club passed out items she had bought herself at the Dollar Store to give away. They included packets of Q-tips, feminine hygiene products inside discarded eye glass containers, plus dental floss and tooth brushes.

A young homeless man who declined to give much personal information said life on the streets in Salem is difficult. 

Among the biggest challenges he and others like him face, he said, are transportation, clothing, and access to jobs. The rural poor and homeless face even greater challenges with travel and gaining access to services, several said.

Departing Guests May Shop for Needed Items in the Exit Store
Some who showed up at the event were homeless by choice, or due to domestic violence, chronic health issues, or nowhere to go after incarceration. Some are couch surfing, staying at friends and relatives temporarily until they have to move on.

Volunteers spend months staging the event, aiming to show some love, compassion and hope, as well as to offer practical help for the poor to get back on their feet and get ahead.