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OHCS Director Andrea Bell speaks at the Mid-Willamette Valley Affordable Housing Conference in Salem on May 16, 2023.
By The Skanner News | The Skanner News
Published: 18 May 2023

SALEM, Ore. — Oregon Housing and Community Services Director Andrea Bell delivered the keynote speech Tuesday during the Mid-Willamette Valley Affordable Housing Conference, “Shaping the Future.” Bell said Oregon's lack of affordable housing has become an emergency and requires moving at top speed collectively to improve the quality of Oregonians’ lives.   

Bell praised the efforts underway in the Marion-Polk region to respond to Gov. Tina Kotek’s emergency declaration due to unsheltered homelessness. Marion-Polk is working to rehouse 158 households and create 79 shelter beds.  

“While much has changed in the prior years, it’s worth noting what hasn’t changed, such as the common denominator of our housing progress as a state is our people,” Bell said.

“The time for collective leadership is now.

"We’ve arrived at a pivotal moment once more, and there’s a new mandate for how to partner and position ourselves toward achieving outcomes for the people of Oregon in all corners of the state.” 

The Marion-Polk region is considering several strategies to achieve its rehousing goal, including collaboration with local housing providers to make direct payment for rental assistance and covering costs that include utility deposits and payments, arrears, moving costs, and renter's insurance.

OHCS Director Andrea Bell speaks at the Mid-Willamette Valley Affordable Housing Conference in Salem on May 16, 2023.

Other strategies include supportive services and case management for those moving directly from unsheltered homelessness into a home and transportation assistance to medical appointments, jobs, etc. To meet their shelter bed goal, the Marion-Polk region is considering renovating and expanding existing emergency shelters, including number of beds, additional bathrooms, showers and laundry facilities. There is also great interest in integrating services in ongoing operations, including access to medical and behavioral health care. 

“Housing and the health of our economies are inextricably linked,” Bell said. “We believe that together, we can build a better future for our communities, one that is grounded in centering racial equity, compassion and shared accountability. The state of affordable housing in Oregon is not a problem that we can solve overnight. Making a difference will require urgent action, historic investments, and solutions that center humanity. But together, we can create a future where every Oregonian has a safe and affordable place to call home.” 

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