BEND, OR -- While area homeless shelters, churches and other groups provide options for people to get out of the cold, hundreds remain outside in sub-zero temperatures. Tory Flory, Outreach Program Manager for Central Oregon Veterans Outreach, says volunteers distributed cold-weather gear to a number of homeless camps prior to the storm, because they knew some would be unreachable once the snow hit. "We’ve added an increased effort to provide propane gas, so people can use that – not only just to cook but also to keep themselves warm – that can be the difference between a cold-related injury and not, especially in weather like this. We’ve also had an increase here at our walk-in center, with that propane gas as well. We also provide hot coffee and hot soup." He adds, "We’ve also really increased our supplies of cold weather coats; we tried to increase our supplies of sleeping bags, shelter items such as tents and tarps, in preparation for this cold weather." Donations of tents, tarps, socks and coats can be made at COVO’s outreach center, across from the Bend Fred Meyer on Highway 97.
COVO Executive Director J.W. Terry tells KBND News, "Everybody who walks through the door, we’re telling them where the shelters are during this cold weather spell. We’re trying to get as many of them inside as we can." But, Flory says there are a variety of reasons why they won’t seek shelter. "Everything from feelings of persecution, embarrassment for being in that position, all the way to addiction problems that would cause them to even be turned away from the shelters." Most homeless facilities don’t accept animals and Flory says some refuse to leave pets behind. Others can't handle the crowds at a shelter.
Ron Moore is a volunteer with COVO. He’s lived outside for six years and says he stays safe with a tarp over his tent and by keeping his bed off the ground. "Just take care of your equipment, is the main thing. You’ve got to watch so that you don’t tear it or rip it. I keep a roll of duct tape just in case. If you can stay out of the wind, you can stay pretty good, because the wind is what gets you cold. If you get wet when that wind is blowing, you’re going to freeze." He says deep snow can cause tents to cave in.
The Shepherd's House, which helps run warming shelters in Redmond and Sisters, is also asking for emergency donations. The organization says they need money to purchase food and other necessities for men, women and children during extreme weather. Monetary donations can be made online. They also need sleeping bags, gloves, hats, hand warmers and tents; those donations can be made at the Shepherd's House Bend shelter on Division, or at Grace Gate Church in Redmond between 6 p.m. and 7 a.m. And, they're looking for alternate daytime locations for those seeking shelter over the next couple of days to warm up and get a hot meal.