Local Churches Provide Sanctuary from the Cold

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Volunteers installing partitions at the South County Shelter Hub.

The winter season is always hard on our neighbors who do not have shelter. Being outside during cold, rainy, nasty weather is hard on the health and the spirit. And this year, the dangers of coronavirus are added to the mix.

As the coronavirus let us know it was sticking around, Washington County’s Homeless Program Manager, Annette Evans, pulled winter shelter managers together and presented a new vision for the 2020-2021 season. She proposed 3 – 5 shelter “hubs” operating 7 days a week to replace the model of multiple single-night drop-in shelters throughout Washington County. Individuals enroll in one of these shelter hubs and have the same space every night at a facility that is set up to follow social distancing and health precautions. This model provides more stability and health safety for the most vulnerable members of our community.

Overnight shelter managers from Rise Church (formerly Calvin Presbyterian Church) in Tigard, Rolling Hills Community Church in Tualatin, St. Anthony Catholic Church in Tigard, and St. Francis Catholic Church in Sherwood worked together to establish a South County Shelter Hub. The shelter is located in Rise Church and Good Neighbor Center has taken on the responsibility for staffing and managing the shelter.

Cubicle partitions donated by Intel help facilitate social distancing between guests.

The result is a wonderful example of government, non-profit organizations, churches, businesses, and volunteers working together to meet a pressing need in the community. Washington County received a grant to fund shelter operations. Good Neighbor Center is applying their expertise to run the shelter, utilize donations and connect individuals with resources. The churches listed above plus Crossridge Church in Sherwood signed up to provide a hot, healthy dinner for a designated day of the week. Intel donated cubicle partitions to help ensure social distancing. Sherwood YMCA is allowing use of their facilities for showers once a week. All these pieces came together on Nov. 15 when the shelter opened its doors, providing warm meals and a bed to 30 individuals in need.  

It has truly been a community effort, but more support is needed. The shelter needs two more groups to provide dinners for a specified weeknight. For individuals, the shelter needs overnight volunteers to join shelter staff from 12 a.m. – 7 a.m. If you are interested in either opportunity, please contact Pedro Oliveira at [email protected].