Marquez Raises Over $300,000 for Youth Homeless Shelter
On March 3, a senior from McKay raised over $300,000 to fund a youth homeless shelter in Salem. Raul Marquez ‘18 is aiming towards raising $400,000 to buy the former Catarino Cavazos Center that used to be a center where at-risk Latino youth could go to for resources.
“This project was inspired by the need in our community. Youth homelessness is an issue that is very often overlooked. In the city of Salem we have failed our youth. As we look at the numbers, not only do we notice how big of an issue it is, but we also see the increase youth homelessness is having year after year. When I hear the stories of youth that have had to face homelessness it tears me apart to know that we are not providing our youth any services to help them. Nobody our age should have their biggest concern be whether or not they will have somewhere to sleep or not,” Marquez said.
The Oregon Legislature granted Marquez and his team $200,000 from the $93,000,000 omnibus spending bill that was approved on March 6 to help fund the project. Salem does have Northwest Human Services that offer about a dozen emergency beds for people from ages 18 to 24 to stay for the night, but if the police drop off a child that is between 11 to 18 years old they are able to house the child for the night. The shelter that Marquez proposed is a 3,482 square foot space with six bedrooms.
“This project would not be possible without the help of the United Way of the Mid-Willamette Valley. Additionally, the support from Representative Diego Hernandez and his staff at the Capital have been influential in the progress of our project. Ultimately, my team, my peers from McKay high school, have been there since the beginning to support us. In particular, Raquel Marquez, Serena Miser and Janet Flores took a stand and committed to doing all they could to ensure that no youth would ever have to face homelessness on their own,“ Marquez said.
Marquez has already received a $100,000 grant from the United Way of the Mid-Willamette Valley, where he is a teen board member through the Salem Leadership Youth Program. He has also received $24,900 through community donations since then. The Union Gospel Mission [UGM] is a men only shelter located in downtown Salem and they serve meals to those in need. Simonka Place is a shelter for both women and children located on River Road. While there are some places where youth can stay, there is not a designated area for them to stay at specifically for youth between the ages 14 to 22. While there are areas like the HOME Youth and Resource Center that helps youth from the ages of 11 to 17 years old or 18 if they are working towards a GED or a high school diploma, but children are unable to stay overnight at the establishment. The goal for the youth homeless shelter is to provide a safe space where youth from the ages of 14 to 22 are able to seek resources and stay, similar to the UGM or the Simonka Place.
“This project serves to raise awareness on the issue of homelessness and we hope that it will lead to more advocacy surrounding the issue. Also, I would hope that this serves as a testimony to youth. We can do what we put our minds to and if you are passionate about an issue, you have the voice and will to create change. My hopes are that youth be empowered to create change and lead our communities in the correct direction.” Marquez said.
Salem-Keizer currently has approximately 600 students who are in the Student Transition Educational Program [S.T.E.P.] and roughly 40 students at South use these resources. For every 50 students at South, one of them is homeless.1150 students who participated in S.T.E.P. were from the Salem-Keizer Public Schools in 2015-2016 alone and the numbers are continuing to rise.
Over the course of the years homelessness has been a growing issue within the community as legislatures are working to find ways to help relieve the influx of homelessness in Salem. A homeless person is defined as a person who is lacking a regular, fixed, and stable nighttime residence according to S.T.E.P. Some examples of an irregular nighttime residence would include living in a car, “doubled up” or sharing housing with others due to the loss of housing, economic hardships, living in motels, trailer parks, or camping due to the lack of alternative accommodations, living in public places or parks or abandoned buildings, and other similar situations.
The omnibus spending bill has also taken measures to help alleviate the issue by giving $350,000 to the Mid-Willamette Valley Communication Agency that is dedicated towards homelessness prevention programs and homelessness services. Some services include street outreach, day shelters, emergency shelters, rental assistance, and rapid rehousing. The 2018 Legislature also gave $250,000 towards the Salem-Keizer Educational Foundation’s Mike McLaran Student Skills Center. The Starkey-McCully building that is located on Commercial Street NE is being restored to provide college preparation, mentoring, academic support, workforce training, and social support.
To learn more about S.T.E.P visit the homelessness editorial on the Clypian website.