As the Capital of Oregon, Salem is a central hub in the State for those who experience poverty, homelessness, incarceration, and mental illness. On the southeast corner of Salem, a small movement known as Church@thePark has formed to interact in a relational way with people who find themselves challenged by one or more of these factors. Church@thePark is a Collaborative Navigation Center supported by eight Churches working with the City of Salem, ARCHES, United Way, and the Marion-Polk Food Share. Salem Leadership Foundation serves as the backbone collaborator and technical consultant.
Church@thePark currently operates on a one-acre property with a 2,100-square-foot center located adjacent to Cascades Gateway Park. The Navigation Center provides food security for more than 120 individuals a week providing one meal a day and pantry boxes twice a week in partnership with Marion-Polk Food Share. Church@thePark is also a distribution center for sleeping bags, tents, tarps, socks, warming clothes, and hygiene items. We have served as a Emergency Safe Parking location for 6 vehicle campers since January 1, 2020, and are now expanding to coordinate a Salem Safe Parking Network for up to eight sites with a capacity for 48 vehicles and 96 people sheltered.