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Emergency COVID-19 Shelters To Close In Lane County

Melorie Begay/KLCC News


Temporary COVID-19 homeless respite centers in Eugene and Springfield are expected to close when Lane County enters Phase Two of reopening. County officials are eyeing a June 5 end date. The City of Eugene will also shutdown their Designated Temporary Shelter Sites, but they'll wait until the county has been approved to enter Phase Two.

Respite shelters at the Lane Events Expo Center in Eugene and the Memorial Building in Springfield will end services on June 5. Both facilities were managed by St. Vincent de Paul and Occupy Medical. The spaces offered the unhoused community a place to stay as well as medical services.

"Where we're at with June 5th, when these shelters demobilize, is still working really hard on trying to find out where are people allowed to sleep, what are safe places for people to sleep in," said Sarai Johnson at a May 21 Lane County Poverty and Homelessness Board Meeting. Johnson is the Joint Housing Strategist for Eugene and Lane County.

She said one possibility could be to relocate Eugene's Designated Temporary Shelter Sites and potentially add more sites. Johnson said the county is closing respite shelters since FEMA funds will end on June 5 and other services are expected return around the same time. 

But finding immediate solutions could be tricky. At the same meeting Johnson said the county is out around 250 shelter beds as the Eugene Mission and Dusk To Dawn have limited capacity. Both sites have made changes to practice social distancing. The recently finished River Avenue COVID-19 Recovery Center will remain active. 

Meanwhile, the City of Eugene's Designated Temporary Shelter Sites in the parking lots of the Amazon Community Center and the Peterson Barn Community Center will likely close when the county enters Phase Two. White Bird and Carry It Forward managed these sites.

"We don't have a specific date established," said Eugene-Springfield Interim Fire Chief Chris Heppel said during a City Council Worksession on Wednesday.

"It would certainly want to be in alignment with the next phase of reopening. I would remind council that the State of Oregon has yet to release what Phase Two guidance looks like, much less what the application process looks like," he said.

Heppel said people have latched onto June 5, but he said there's no firm date since reopening will depend on data. Heppel and Eugene City Manager Pro Tem Sarah Medary joined city councilors and Mayor Lucy Vinis to discuss COVID-19 Transition Planning at the same May 21 meeting.

“We need to be able to have some places for at least all of those individuals to go, and so they’ve either been navigated into some other type of housing or we have set up a similar type of micro site," Medary said.

Medary suggested adding rest stops as a solution, but urged action before summer camp season begins on June 22. She said the idea isn't to go back to pre-COVID conditions and hoped councilors would support efforts by identifying possible sites.

This story has been updated to include information on the River Avenue facility which will remain open.

©? 2020 KLCC

Melorie Begay is a multimedia journalist for KLCC News. She was the Inaugural KLCC Public Radio Foundation Journalism Fellow. She has a bachelors in Multimedia Journalism from the University of New Mexico. She previously interned at KUNM public radio in Albuquerque, NM and served as a fellow for the online news publication New Mexico In Depth.