The new Mid-Willamette Homeless Initiative needed a new home.

The first meeting of the task force last month was held in a meeting room at the Salem Public Library, but a crowd of more than 100 people filled the room beyond capacity.

As such, the second meeting will be held next Tuesday, March 29 in council chambers at Keizer Civic Center, located at 930 Chemawa Road NE. The public meeting is scheduled to go from 4 to 6 p.m. Future meetings will also be held at the location.

“We were so pleased by the overwhelming response to our first meeting,” said Keizer Mayor Cathy Clark, one of the task force co-chairs. “Clearly our broader community cares deeply, as we do, about connecting people with critical services and, of course, housing resources.”

Salem Mayor Anna Peterson and Marion County Commissioner Janet Carlson led the first Mid-Willamette Homeless Initiative meeting Feb. 17. Next week's meeting will be in Keizer. (KEIZERTIMES file/Craig Murphy)

Salem Mayor Anna Peterson and Marion County Commissioner Janet Carlson led the first Mid-Willamette Homeless Initiative meeting Feb. 17. Next week’s meeting will be in Keizer. (KEIZERTIMES file/Craig Murphy)

Task force agenda items include presentations and discussion regarding affordable housing and strategic planning. Time is also set aside for public comment. Written feedback may be submitted in advance to hparekh@co.marion.or.us by noon on March 29.

The Mid-Willamette Homeless Initiative has launched a website to share information and chronicle task force progress. The website features meeting dates, agendas and minutes, meeting materials, key documents, news articles, as well as related links and staff contact information. The address is homelesstaskforce.net.

“We are excited to offer a website where people can quickly find information about the task force,” said Marion County Commissioner Janet Carlson, another of the co-chairs. “The website offers everything from agendas and minutes to research studies and local resources.”

Salem Mayor Anna Peterson led the Feb. 17 meeting until handing it over to Carlson. Presentations related to housing, services and funding sources were made by Community Action Agency, Marion County Housing Authority, Salem Housing Authority, West Valley Housing Authority, the Department of Housing and Urban Development and Rural Oregon Continuum of Care.

“The Mid-Willamette region is proving once again that it is the collaboration capital, by joining forces to address the many and varied causes of homelessness,” Peterson said. “I am confident that with the leadership of the task force members, and the strong support and interest already shown by the communities, we will find solutions and garner resources to meet these pressing needs.”

The task force is a joint effort between Salem and Keizer, as well as Polk and Marion counties. Each jurisdiction has appointed five members to serve on the task force. In addition to Peterson, Clark and Carlson, Jennifer Wheeler represents Polk County.

The initiative was established to help address issues facing people experiencing homelessness in the area.

The task force is looking at contributing factors including addiction, education, mental health and transportation. Key areas of focus are likely to include affordable housing, chronic homelessness, critical services and public safety, among others.

“We’re so pleased at the amount of community interest,” Wheeler said. “With a much larger venue for the second meeting, we should be able to accommodate the community interest.”

For more information regarding the Mid-Willamette Homeless Initiative, contact Hitesh Parekh with Marion County at (503) 566-3915 or hparekh@co.marion.or.us, or Laura Walker with the city of Salem at (503) 540-2405 or lwalker@cityofsalem.net.

Tuesday’s meeting will include a discussion of barriers and opportunities to expand affordable housing, with information from Rob Justus, Mike Erdmann, Eric Olsen, Ron Hays and Don Jensen.