What is a Neighborhood Association?

What is a Neighborhood Association? I honestly didn’t know when I moved to West Salem a year ago. I discovered the WSNA while researching my new digs and I attended my first meeting in January. Like a fly on the wall, I watched a small group of people, scattered about a large room, as they conducted a monthly parliamentary style meeting. There was a call to order, a reading of the ethics statement, a review of past minutes, new agenda items, committee reports, and updates from city police and city council. I didn’t understand everything that transpired, but what I took away was an honest desire to advocate with local government on behalf of the “Common Good” of the West Salem neighborhood and surrounding community.

So, I returned in my fly costume. I observed, and I learned. I learned that a Neighborhood Association welcomes ALL residents, as well as representatives from local businesses, schools, and churches. They work together to meet the needs of the community in ways individual citizens can’t do on their own. Through voluntary participation, Neighborhood Associations create a space for neighbors to meet neighbors, share concerns, offer solutions, and create a greater sense of community.

The WSNA has been here for years and is represented faithfully every month by people who care about the “common good” of our neighborhood. I was hooked, and now, I’m happy to tell you about all the things this organization does for the community you live in, and maybe even convince you to get involved, if even just a little.

The first thing on WSNA’s October 5th agenda was the election and confirmation of the 2023-2024 board. Officers are elected, and committee chairs are appointed each year. All serve a one-year term that commences immediately upon tallying the votes. So first of all, I’d like to congratulate and introduce you to your 2023-2024 WSNA board:


  • Chair: Michael Freitas
  • Vice Chair: Sara Campos
  • Secretary: Drew Strayer
  • Treasurer: Beverly Freitas

Committee Chairs

  • Welcoming: Robert Garcia
  • Communications: Maureen Zwicker
  • Parks: Linda Bierly
  • Houseless: Drew Strayer
  • Transportation: Nick Fortey
  • Glenn and Gibson Creek Watershed: E.M. Easterly
  • Land Use: Steven Anderson

Last month, I introduced you to Linda Bierly, WSNA Parks chair. This month, I’d like to introduce you to Drew Strayer, WSNA’s new Secretary, and the Chair of the Houseless committee. We sat down at the Urban Grange coffee shop so I could  better understand his role as Houseless Chair, and what volunteering in this capacity means to him.

Drew and his wife have lived in Oregon off and on for over eleven years, the last four as residents in the charming Edgewood neighborhood. As Political Science majors and volunteer chaplains in their neighborhood, both are civic minded and “committed to the common good of all who reside in our town.” The Common Good. Those were the words Drew first said to me over coffee, and they’re the words that represent the mission and goals of Neighborhood Associations across the nation. So, our conversation followed that theme.

Houselessness is a complicated issue facing the world today, and there are no simple solutions. And, as a Neighborhood Association, there isn’t one easy answer when addressing the multiple concerns and empathies of our district. Drew expressed his role as Houseless Chair thoughtfully, more as a liaison collaborating with the city to get information and updates on City activities like cleanups, shelter options, funding updates, and warming and cooling centers, and then sharing that information at monthly meetings.

WSNA isn’t directly affiliated and doesn’t advocate for any government, city, county, or non-profit agency, but it does stay connected to the city for help when a specific issue is brought forward. There are many organizations who are doing amazing work in our city with the houseless. Church at the Park with their evidence-based programming, and the Arches and UGM who collaborate tirelessly with many outdoor residents of WS who cross the river for support, to name just a few. Drew recognizes the city efforts in helping WS houseless neighbors move when a site has become unhealthy, and in their efforts to clean up areas in Wallace Marine Park.

As WSNA’s Houseless Chair, Drew also acknowledges the challenges ahead of us. Citizens everywhere are struggling with seeing people living outside. “But the reality is, outdoor living is people’s lives and their experience right now. Until the resources are leveraged and opportunities are present, many of these neighbors feel like they don’t have other acceptable choices.”

Acknowledging that, and understanding there are no magical cures, I asked Drew what we can do as a neighborhood to help address these concerns going forward. Sitting back in his chair and reaching deep inside, he told me, “If there are challenges your neighborhood is facing and you can see them, then it’s not really a choice. If you can carve out the capacity, you help make the changes that are needed so that more people can thrive.”

Volunteers will be needed to help staff warming shelters in the coming months. We need locations that can serve as warming stations in the winter, and cooling stations in the summer. Every winter there is a “Point-in-Time Count,” to better understand who the houseless are and what barriers they face. Volunteers are needed to help make the count happen. We need people open to conversations so that if we do get an opportunity for a micro-shelter location, we can consider the evidence and successes these locations have already proven to have. By getting involved, we can see that lives are being changed, families are being saved, and this is working right here, right now, for the common good of all. Please join us for our next meeting: Thursday, November 2nd, 6:30 at Roth’s. We are excited to Welcome Mayor Chris Hoy as our guest speaker, and Mark Wardell, Team Lead for West Salem Community Emergency Response (CERT). We look forward to seeing you there!