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Below Freezing Temps This Weekend Prompt Emergency Shelters

Mihaly Koles

An early cold snap has prompted an emergency shelter response, so homeless people can escape freezing temperatures.

The weekend forecast through Monday shows overnight lows of 30 degrees or colder. The Egan Warming Center typically doesn’t open until mid-November, so the Lane County government has helped by opening the Lane Events Center, including the Wheeler Pavilion, for roughly 150 beds. 

“It was incredibly important to find a space large enough that we could adhere to strict COVID19 protocols," Lane County spokesperson Devon Ashbridge told KLCC.  "And so we will be ensuring that guests that stay with us over the weekend are spaced appropriately.  Any guests with symptoms will be offered a space offsite, to reduce any risk of spread.”

St. Vincent de Paul, under contract with Lane County, will staff the emergency shelters.  Beds are available Sunday and Monday from 6pm until 8am.

Ashbridge says it’s possible the plan could come into play again should another freezing spell hit before November 15th.  

Winter presents double-jeopardy for the unhoused this year.  Not only will there be cold snaps, but the COVID-19 pandemic will greatly affect how warming shelters can safely operate.

“We have lost around 200 shelter beds in our community going into the winter because of the spacing requirements," continued Ashbridge.  "One of the other challenges, specifically with the Egan Warming Center too is that a lot of the volunteers are over 60, and they themselves are in a higher risk group when it comes to COVID-19.”

Ashbridge says as winter nears, acquiring more volunteers and space will be important. 

Copyright 2020, KLCC.

Brian Bull joined the KLCC News Team in June 2016. In his 25+ years as a public media journalist, he's worked at NPR, Twin Cities Public Television, South Dakota Public Broadcasting, Wisconsin Public Radio, and ideastream in Cleveland. His reporting has netted dozens of accolades, including four national Edward R. Murrow Awards (19 regional), the Ohio Associated Press' Best Reporter Award, Best Radio Reporter from the Native American Journalists Association, and the PRNDI/NEFE Award for Excellence in Consumer Finance Reporting.
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