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As cold snap hits, new Bend warming shelter sees highest occupancy

(Update: Adding info, video)

Officials managing more male guests, seeks donations

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- With snow falling over several days and nighttime lows dropping into the teens, the month-old emergency Bend Winter Shelter reached its highest number of guests Tuesday night, at 41.

In its present configuration, the warming shelter can house up to 48 guests a night, with 24 bunk beds allocated to men guests and 24 for women.

With the uptick in guests, the shelter is looking for more ways to accommodate for overflow, as more men guests have needed shelter than women. Housing Stabilization Director, Molly Heiss with NeighborImpact says moving around bunks in the women's dorms is one of the ways they are accommodating more men.

"What we are doing for overflow is utilizing some of the mats in the women's dorms," Heiss said Wednesday. "We're moving those into some of the common areas and utilizing that space so we can have a little bit more of a higher capacity. We are seeing a really large group of men and just a few women. I think our average is three to five women a night."

The Bend Winter Shelter opens at 6 p.m. and closes 7 a.m. Guests are provided a hot meal at night, through a rotation of church congregations that donate and provide hot meals. The shelter is still in need of more resources like fitted or flat sheets, socks, hand warmers, paper goods and individually wrapped breakfast snack items.

The winter shelter has partnered with the Deschutes County Sheriff's Office for this current winter season, using space in the work release center, but will need to find a new location for the next season.

"The sheriff's department probably wont be available to us next year. They're doing some remodeling, so we're still looking for space for next season," Heiss said. "We've learned a lot of lessons and have worked in close collaboration with the sheriff's department."

The shelter expects to open Nov. 1 each year and will be open until March 15, after which it will pack up and close down.

Colleen Thomas, co- chair for the Homeless Leadership Coalition, says they've already begun looking for a new location.

"We're reaching out to different community partners and elected officials, and individuals in the community that might know of different locations, so that we're not in the place we were last year, kind of scrambling trying to find a location," Thomas said."

Thomas says because the winter shelters close early in the morning and forces people back into the cold, they are looking into ways to also have a daytime warming center for those in need.

The shelter welcomes all guests, and is a pet-friendly center. Routine security checks are completed regularly, to ensure the safety of guests and employees.

Bend / Central Oregon / Top Stories

Arielle Brumfield

Arielle Brumfield is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Arielle here.


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