Corvallis Housing First in partnership with Room at the Inn has opened Corvallis’ first shelter for homeless women over 55, Dede’s Home while continuing to manage the cold weather overnight shelter. 

Dede’s Home offers permanent supported housing for women who previously didn’t have stable housing and a chance for the community to gain an understanding of the challenges these women face. 

Another valuable resource for the homeless population is Room at the Inn, a cold weather overnight shelter. Located just off campus, Room at the Inn houses upto 18 women each night by providing a safe place to sleep, dinner and breakfast, toiletries and warm accessories for the winter. Case management services are also offered to help these women gain control of their lives and help them attain stable housing.

Sara Power, executive director at Room at the Inn, said that while basic necessities are important, listening and being respectful is the most critical resource offered to women who reach out to Dede’s Home and Room at the Inn. According to Power, many women experience being ignored or shunned due to their housing situation.

“To have another recognize your value as a sister human-being is pretty wonderful for all of us,” Power said.

Homelessness in Corvallis has escalated in recent years and requires action by both the county and community alike to resolve the issue, according to the Benton County Home, Opportunity, Planning and Equity Advisory Board. 

“We have to recognize [homelessness] is a serious problem in our community, and one we can do something about if we put our minds to it,” said Biff Traber, mayor of Corvallis and former co-chair of the Housing Opportunities Advising Council.

Benton County has also taken initiative in addressing the homelessness issue. The newly established the Home, Opportunity, Planning and Equity advisory board, replacement of HOAC, aims to utilize available research and existing county plans to develop a recommended course of action for tackling homelessness in Corvallis.

HOPE is a recently created board and finalized its members in October. Despite being a young organization, it has years of established research and planning by HOAC to work with. From these resources, HOPE executive board members have identified concepts such as increasing permanent housing opportunities and community engagement as priority actions necessary to address increasing homelessness. With its members finalized, the board will focus on developing a plan to present to the county that will have a detailed course of action for tackling homelessness involving a diverse group of community members.

Traber said he believes that through the work done previously by HOAC, the community and county government will be able to make steady incremental progress in solving the homelessness issue. 

Xanthippe Augerot, Benton County commissioner, former co-chair of HOAC and member of the HOPE executive committee, said community awareness of the difficulties homeless people face can make arguing for solutions easier. Without an understanding of the challenges these people face regarding eating, sleeping, bathing and socializing, the community is less likely to be concerned with solving this growing issue, said Augerot.

“Individual stories humanize people and make it harder to argue ‘not in my backyard,’” Augerot said.

Power said the women of Room at the Inn are interesting people for volunteers to meet since their experiences and challenges are unique.

According to the shelter’s volunteer website page, the shelter cannot remain open without two volunteers or staff present at all times. Volunteers can help with services such as laundry, greeting guests and general chores. Women over the age of 21 are preferred, but all help is welcome. Power said that there is always an experienced volunteer or staff member on duty, so new volunteers aren’t left feeling overwhelmed.

“Helping everyone in our community live their best lives is simply how we all should live,” Power said.