Tents, dedicated sleeping areas amid COVID-19; First Presbyterian thanks community for assist
BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) – A northeast Bend church has stepped in to serve as a temporary cold-weather shelter for the homeless and those in need until an official winter shelter opens in another week, officials said.
First Presbyterian Church on Northeast Ninth Street began hosting the temporary facility on Saturday evening as an interim solution, the Central Oregon Homeless Leadership Coalition said.
The city of Bend and Shepherd’s House Ministries recently announced that this winter’s warming shelter will be in the former Opportunity Center Foundation thrift store location off Northeast Second Street.
The facility is now set to open on Monday, Nov. 23, Shepherd’s House Development Director David Notari confirmed Sunday. “We’re going as fast as we can” to get the new shelter facility ready, he said.
Meanwhile, the shelter at First Presbyterian will operate from 6 p.m. to 9 a.m. on a first-come, first-served basis, with an approved capacity of 40 people, including staff and volunteers, the coalition said. Guests must follow a code of conduct, the organization said, and “masks will be absolutely mandatory.”
After an intake screening, each guest or couple is provided a dedicated sleeping area with a tent, “to hopefully further protect against the possibility of anyone getting sick.” The coalition’s Facebook post stated, adding, “Thank you to all that are making this happen! It takes a village.”
First Presbyterian, in its own Facebook post on Saturday, said, “We are amazed at how quickly our community got these tents up and transformed the church building into an emergency cold-weather shelter this afternoon!”
Church officials thanked those who brought donations of toiletries, warm clothing, blankets, cleaning supplies and more.
Notari said the church agreed to provide a temporary facility, as it has already gone through the city permit process for a temporary shelter during wildfire season, if needed.
He said a Zoom call involving about 30 people, including three city councilors and Rep. Cheri Helt, was scheduled, to discuss a recent state funding opportunity to purchase “turnkey” hotels for housing the homeless or wildfire evacuees.
The Nov. 23 target date for opening the new shelter prompted concern about the interim lack of a facility, especially in the wake of a homeless man’s death after a night in the bitter cold, and First Presbyterian offered to provide the temporary location, Notari said.