Coordinators with Egan Warming Centers have yet to find a new Springfield emergency shelter for the upcoming winter season. The St. Vincent de Paul program is exploring all possibilities, including buying a building.
This year’s annual Point-in-Time count showed a 32 percent jump in homelessness across Lane County. Egan Springfield site lead David Strahan said he expects that number to increase, fueling his concern.
“We lost the only site we had available for winter operations for emergency shelter in Springfield. The snow load that landed on the building deemed the inspectors that that building was no longer usable and is in fact condemned,” Strahan said.
Last season, around 1,500 individuals visted the centers. At the Springfield site, around 60-100 people used their services a night. Strahan said there’s a risk that 120 people experiencing homelessness could be without a place to stay this season.
As a solution, Strahan said, the Egan Warming Centers is hoping donors. or other agencies would buy church previously owned by the Salvation Army, on the corner of Centennial and Mill Street. Then, allow the emergency shelter to use the space.
"This site has a commercial kitchen, a huge open floor plan, an area that's divisible into sleeping shelter for men and women, has sufficient bathroom space, has a great intake area, and is centrally located on a bus line without a heavy residential presence around it," Strahan said.
The property is listed online on C.W. Walker and Associates' website for $749,000. Strahan said there’s room for 100 beds and it could be used for other services during the off season.
Owning a building would also prevent the organization from scrambling to find a spot every year. Shelley Corteville, the former director of Egan Warming Centers, said this has been the case for the past two years.
"They are citizens, they are our neighbors, they don't have addresses, they don't have what we think of as a home, but they're our neighbors, they're our people, we do have a responsibility to take care of one another," Corteville said.
St. Vincent de Paul can't afford to pay for the building on their own, so they're looking for community support. Corteville said regardless if they can buy the building, they're still without a location with less than 3 months to go.
"We really need the public, businesses, and nonprofits, anybody in Springfield, who has any idea of where we could get a site, or money to donate. But, the bottom line is, we need a site for this coming season," she said.
The City of Springfield told KLCC they're looking to be a part of the solution in finding an alternative location for the winter, but they haven't discused the church in question.
Correction: A previous version of this story didn't specify Egan Warming Centers was asking for donations.