History of Room at the Inn
Room at the Inn
To learn more about Room at the Inn's current operations, please scroll down and click on the links under the vertical Room at the Inn logo to the left.
Room at the Inn provides emergency shelter for women who need a place to stay in Corvallis, Oregon. The shelter is located in the Community Center of The First United Methodist Church (12th and Jackson) and can accommodate 22 women each night. We are currently open year-round, for women 18 years and older. Guests receive a comfortable bed, showers, and snacks or simple meals every evening and morning. We also have a safe space for TV talking and relaxing until lights out at 10 p.m. Room at the Inn is now a part of Unity Shelter.
In the fall of 2012, several members of the First United Methodist Church began to discuss the sort of women’s shelter we would want to participate in. We quickly realized that we had an ideal location to host a shelter on our own property. We contacted Corvallis Housing First to gain some insights/best practices because they were managing the Men's Shelter at the time. At that time, we fully expected to integrate the two shelter programs into a single site services center for all neighbors experiencing homelessness in Corvallis within two years.
Our team then reached out to other churches and to OSU's College of Health and Human Sciences to get some input on how to make this work. At our first steering committee meeting in May of 2013, we met four graduate students from the College of HHS who were absolutely thrilled to write grants for the new women's shelter. They set up an evaluation program and a logic model. One of our team members was a professor from Human Development and Family Sciences who could help us get student volunteers. Church members of The FUMC and of The First Congregational United Church of Christ combined to establish a diverse board of directors. Several of us who had been active shelter volunteers began to work on the policies and procedures using the men’s shelter templates as guidelines. Rev. Jim Parr-Philipson, who had been instrumental in starting a family shelter in Bend, began to work on bylaws. Everyone at that initial meeting was sent out to look for more permanent board members.
We opened our doors on November 1, 2013! We had enough money to cover November and December from a generous gift from a church visitor! By mid-November, our wonderful student grant writers had come up with enough money to fund all the salaries and operational costs for our first year!
That first year, we had only two paid staff members to stay awake overnight. Having paid staff members helped us recruit overnight volunteers, since they could actually sleep all night! We did a joint training with the Corvallis Housing First in early October and got about 7 (out of 21) weeks covered by church and civic groups. Leslie Richards, the HDFS professor got her honors class of “Families and Poverty” to sign up to help. We set up an online volunteer sign up and we got great response from students. That was a great start; however, during that first December we begged volunteers from all involved churches to help out more. They did help! We and these altruistic volunteers quickly discovered the beauty of the online signup, which allowed volunteers to signup at their convenience. They came to help even more often! This was a win-win, with guests and volunteers getting to know each other better.
Our first year of operation was also the year of the big snows – one in December and one in February. Between our quick action and our online volunteer website we were able to stay open 24/7 until the roads were cleared and the town was reopened. Whew!
Two years went by. Then three. We realized we would be independently operating the shelter indefinitely when the idea of a combined men's/women's shelter looked inprobable. We added part-time staff to cover early evenings to support our volunteers, which increased our number of regular volunteers.
In the early years, we were frustrated by losing track of our guests over the summer months because we were unable to keep in touch with them. In the fall of 2016, we hired our first case manager – to focus on developing and maintaining supportive relationships all year, not just seasonally. She worked with shelter guests and other women who were experiencing homelessness in our community. Nine months later, we hired Ailiah Schafer, who has been with us since June of 2017. As Ailiah’s case load grew, we realized we needed to hire another person to manage the shelter. We already had the perfect candidate on our staff, Nohe Kahalewai! She had been an overnight staff person for 3 years until the fall of 2018 when she was promoted to be the shelter manager. When the shelter is closed, Nohe continues to work part time to support case management. She meets with clients at the laundromat or at the shelter for extra showers on a regular schedule. She is also available to help guests get to appointments or to help them with other errands. In the fall of 2019, we were able to finally pay our executive director. We knew that we would have to eventually replace her with a paid staff person.
Phyllis Mix approached us in the Fall of 2018. She wanted to make a real difference in the lives of some of the older women who had been guests at the shelter. Phyllis donated enough money, matched with other donations and grants, to purchase a home for several of these women. We were able to lease, remodel, and eventually purchase DeDe’s Home by working closely with Corvallis Housing First and a dynamic project committee. Our first residents moved into DeDe's Home in July of 2019, which was less than a year after the project was conceived! Our shelter manager, Nohe Kahalewai, also manages DeDe’s Home.
Our most recent change has been to switch our operations (including 3 meals and activities) to stay open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week during the COVID-19 emergency. This was essential to provide our guests/neighbors with a safe place to “stay home and stay healthy.” To achieve this, we quickly increased our staff hours and staffed a kitchen crew to safely prepare meals. Most of our volunteers (with a few exceptions) are elderly and more vulnerable to COVID-19 so it took awhile to get our volunteer support back to cover all the needed times. As the only low barrier shelter still in operation in Corvallis during the pandemic, we were able to obtain “leftover” state money that was specifically earmarked for 2019-20 winter operations, and have remained open continuously since March 2020.
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It is the policy of Unity Shelter to provide equal opportunity in employment and services for all persons and to prohibit discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, handicap, age or sexual orientation. This policy of equal opportunity applies to and must be an integral part of every aspect of personnel policy and practice regarding employment and service delivery. For a complete Non-Discrimination Statement, click here: Non-Discrimination