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As Winter Nears, COVID-19 Drives Unprecedented Need For Space And Volunteers At Shelters

Brian Bull

Operators of emergency shelters in the Eugene-Springfield area are facing a new challenge this year: the COVID-19 pandemic.

An early cold snap prompted the Lane Events Center and Wheeler Pavilion to be activated this past weekend. Thankfully, no one was turned away and just 80 out of 150 beds were used Sunday night.

Tim Black is winter strategies coordinator for St. Vincent De Paul, which runs the Egan Warming Center. He says this was good preparation for the months ahead, but they’ll need help to get through them. He says many current volunteers are elderly, therefore at higher risk for COVID-19.

“We’re not going to tell somebody they can’t volunteer, but we certainly are happy to have our volunteers that are in a higher risk category sit this one out. And let others do it," Black told KLCC. 

"So yeah, some younger volunteers, some newer folks, people who maybe have thought about it before, we welcome them to sign up for one of our trainings next week.”

There are three training sessions next week, all on the teleconferencing app, Zoom. There is training available as well for those lacking the technology for the other sessions.

Black adds he’d love to talk to people with space to offer as well. They’ve been offered a warehouse in Springfield, but it lacks utilities and getting sufficient heating for it is a challenge. Work continues on making it feasible for a shelter.

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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