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Springfield respite shelter gets new caretakers

The nonprofit Carry It Forward has been operating the respite shelter at the Memorial Building on A Street since April 11.

Posted: Apr 22, 2020 7:16 PM

SPRINGFIELD, Ore. -- A temporary homeless shelter set up during the pandemic is under new management to keep costs down.

The nonprofit Carry It Forward has been operating the respite shelter at the Memorial Building on A Street since April 11, executive director Arwen Maas-Despain said. The site can house up to 30 people and is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week, by 20 people.

The shelter was originally run by St. Vincent de Paul. Officials at Lane County Public Health said they switched to Carry It Forward to keep costs down. They're paying the nonprofit $16,000 a week to keep it open, and that's saving taxpayers $5,000 a week. Officials at Lane County Public Health said St. Vincent de Paul recommended Carry It Forward, which has experience running the Egan Warming Center.

Maas-Despain said they're working to transform the space into a community while keeping everyone safe.

"We have just a lot of involvement from the residents in terms of taking care of the space," Maas-Despain said. "It's been really rewarding for them to get involved and be part of the process."

They are taking everyone's temperature at the door and are encouraging good hygiene. Those who show symptoms of COVID-19 are taken to the Wheeler Pavilion at the Lane Events Center where there is another shelter.

Meanwhile, members of a coalition that aimed to buy the building to turn it into a permanent day-use shelter are looking at other options after their plans to buy the building fell through.

Pastor June Fothergill of Ebbert United Methodist Church is part of the coalition. She said their plans for a day-use shelter would include on-site services so people experiencing homelessness can get off the street.

"I'm looking forward to having a day center where several different groups can collaborate to make sure all the services are present," Fothergill said.

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