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Eugene, Springfield respite shelters to be shut down this weekend

After more than two months in operation, two temporary respite shelters for the unhoused in Lane County will close this weekend.

Posted: Jun 3, 2020 11:49 AM
Updated: Jun 3, 2020 4:54 PM

EUGENE, Ore. -- After more than two months in operation, two temporary respite shelters for the unhoused in Lane County will close this weekend.

A county spokesperson confirmed federal funding for the shelters at the Lane County Fairgrounds in Eugene and memorial building in Springfield runs out on Friday.

The sites were meant to fill the gap when shelters like the Eugene Mission and Dusk to Dawn were forced to reduce their populations to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The county said they are working with local partners to develop options for the coming months for those at the shelter.

Saint Vincent de Paul, which operates Dusk to Dawn, said its shelter is full right now with 140 people, even though there is space to serve 260 people.

Terry McDonald, Executive Director for St. Vincent de Paul, said expanding the capacity is difficult without more funding.

“We could put more facility out there and probably double the size back to where it was originally and still have safe distancing, we just don’t have the funding to do that,” McDonald said.

Lane County Administrator Steve Mokrohisky said Tuesday the Eugene Mission can house around 400 people, but they also had to reduce their population by about half because of COVID-19.

As of Tuesday, Mokrohisky said about 50 people are staying at the fairgrounds shelter and 18 are at the memorial building in Springfield. Since the outbreak, more than 600 people have come through the doors of the respite sites.

McDonald, whose organization also operates the county’s temporary respite shelter at the fairgrounds, said while the need in the community will increase without the county shelters, what is more concerning is a potential second way of COVID-19 in the fall and winter when a temporary shelter may not be able to open as easily and quickly as it did in March.

“I will not have the surplus staff, the county will not have funding and the fairgrounds is likely to be in use rather than empty,” McDonald said. “So, if there’s a resurgence of COVID-19 or a need for that type of respite center again, I’m not certain how it will be done.”

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