In late March, Lane County opened two temporary homeless shelters to provide respite during the COVID-19 pandemic. County officials say those centers will close Friday morning. Plans for where scores of unhoused people will be allowed to relocate remain uncertain.
Lane County officials say the temporary shelters at the Lane Events Center in Eugene and the Willamalane Memorial Building in Springfield will close Friday, according to the original plan.
Chris Hecht is executive coordinator at White Bird Clinic. The 50-year old organization is known for outreach services to people living on the streets.
“Frankly, I have a hard time knowing or understanding where people will go. As far as I can tell, folks are being exited from where they’ve been living with no real information on where they can go and be safe from harassment or being rousted.”
Hecht questions the timing. With the coronavirus threat, ongoing Black Lives Matter street protests leading to curfews and plans to clear city-sanctioned tent camps, he says closure of the respite shelters may be a tipping point for the unhoused community.
On Thursday, Lane County spokesperson Devon Ashbridge acknowledged “immediate options for the unsheltered are limited.” Due to distancing restrictions, “social services are still not able to bring back the full number of folks they are used to serving.” Meanwhile, she says the county continues to “work on summer strategies.”