Even though the walkout in the Oregon Senate that had stalled the Legislature has ended, the uncertainty that has jeopardized funding for Unity Shelter’s programs remains, prompting changes in the Corvallis organization’s efforts to shelter people who are homeless.
In response to the uncertainty, the board and staff of Unity Shelter took steps to cut expenses, while also working to maintain its programs to the extent possible.
The organization will close its men’s shelter in South Corvallis the morning of Tuesday, June 20. The hygiene center at that location, which provides food and services such as laundry and showers to people who are homeless, will continue operating with some reduction in hours and days of operation.
Some of the men who sleep at the men’s shelter will be moved to the Room at the Inn facility, located in Corvallis’ First United Methodist Church, starting June 20, the organization said through a press release. The Room at the Inn shelter has been for women only, but the facility will be reworked to accommodate both women and men in a segregated environment.
Capacity at other facilities that serve people who are homeless, such as Third Street Commons in South Corvallis and Safe Camp, at the First Congregational Church of Corvallis, will not be reduced.
Unity Shelter will lay off 18 staff members, who have already been notified. The layoffs represent about a third of the nonprofit organization’s staff.
Funding for Unity Shelter comes from a mix of state and federal grants, foundation awards and private donations. The bulk of its funding for the last three years has come from awards received by Community Services Consortium, the agency assigned to manage many of the funds. Unity Shelter relies on funding that usually is awarded in May or early June to support its operations for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1.
The organization said the walkout by senators in the Legislature meant that funding opportunities that typically would have been announced in May by Community Services Consortium have not yet been announced, since the consortium’s budget hinges on the still-unapproved state budget. Even if the Legislature approves a budget by its June 25 adjournment, sources added, it might be a month or longer before money becomes available for Unity Shelter services.
“Unity Shelter has limited reserves,” said Shawn Collins, Unity Shelter’s executive director, “and without either new funding, or a shift in operations, we are at risk of running out of money to sustain staff and operations within the next few months.”
With questions still swirling around funding, Collins said, Unity Shelter was forced to trim costs.
The steps Unity Shelter is taking should save about $90,000 a month, Collins said, which would allow the organization to continue operating through September in the absence of new state money.
“We are a nonprofit, dependent on funding streams which are never guaranteed, so there’s always risk when we enter grant season,” Collins said. “But we’ve never seen funding so completely at risk.”
Collins added: “This will impact many – those who will go without shelter, our staff and the broader community – and we will work diligently to minimize those impacts.”
Virginia Lucker, the chairman of Unity Shelter’s board, said staff are trained professionals who provide a vital service to unhoused community members for not just physical shelter but a sense of stability.
“The cut in our operations deprives our very dedicated and capable staff of their livelihoods,” Lucker said. “We are hopeful that we will be able to resume our full operations by fall. In the meantime, we will see an even higher number of people in our community who have no place to legally exist. This is a tragic situation for our entire community.”
People who want to donate to Unity Shelter can do so by going to the website unityshelter.org and clicking on the “Donate” button. People who want to volunteer for Unity Shelter can go to the Unity Shelter homepage and click on the “Volunteer” button.