In Oregon Microshelters Offer Longer-term Solution For Homeless in COVID-19 Response
EUGENE, Ore. — The City of Eugene is looking into “microsites” as a new way to provide temporary shelter to the homeless during the pandemic.
This in response to the coronavirus’s effect on the area’s housing crisis as a way to offer stability and support for the homeless community.
The city of Eugene staff said the number of unsheltered homeless outweigh available resources, made worse by COVID-19, and a reduction in resources.
Regan Watjus explained re-opening for the county has meant the opening of community centers, where four emergency Designated Temporary Shelter Sites have now been reduced to one.
“Moving from Phase One to Phase Two, from emergency response into community recovery,” said Watjus, who said a longer-term solution was needed – microsites.
Up to six Conestoga huts or tents are allowed, and the site is to be managed by a non-profit social service.
The first one is underway at Skinner City Farm, managed by the group “Community Supported Shelters” (CSS).
“(It’s) stability for them, where they can access restrooms and not have to worry about their belongings and receive that support to move on to the next step in their lives,” Watjus said.
The Skinner City Farm location is in the beginning stages operating for a week, soon it’ll be a community of six Conestoga huts, similar to another one of their sites, according to Erik De Buhr, executive director of Community Supported Shelters.
“Community Supported Shelters finds ways to collaborate with people experiencing homeless, and with the community and create habitats,” De Buhr said.
With priority given to persons from the city’s designated temporary shelter sites, the “communities” will be six individual dwellings with their own porch, a common kitchen and community spaces, and hygiene stations.
Dani Rejcek has lived in her hut for five weeks.
Her mother passed four months ago as her caretaker, Rejcek, had to leave the senior disabled complex.
“It allows me to work,” she said, “to have a safe place to stay at night so I can get myself back on my feet after a family tragedy.”
She volunteers with CSS and works as a caretaker.
She said they take care of each other, which is evident in their garden.
“We grow our own food as much as we can; it’s a nice little community.”
As transitional housing, De Buhr said they can help connect people through several community partnerships, tailored to the individual’s goals.
“People get stable through providing simple shelter and supportive community,” De Buhr said.
He said he hopes this model can spread to other areas.
Community Supported Shelter will partner with the Eugene Mission on another pocket site of six Conestoga huts.
The City is working to identify new sites, publicly and privately owned, and encourages community members to contact them for more information.