REDMOND, OR -- This week’s heatwave may be responsible for the deaths of four Oregonians, according to the state Medical Examiner’s Office; three in Multnomah County and one in Umatilla. Cooling shelters in Deschutes and Jefferson counties are working to prevent heat-related deaths in Central Oregon.
KBND's Heather Roberts visited the Shepherd's House Ministries facility in Redmond Thursday afternoon, when thermometers in the sun registered 106 in the city. At that time, around a dozen people and a couple dogs were inside the large air conditioned room. Some ate Otter Pops, others had water or Gaterade. "We’re seeing people in their 20s and 30s, some of whom are working manual labor jobs, coming in at 2 or 3 in the afternoon after an 8-hour shift," says Shepherd's House Redmond Director Andrew Hoeksema, "As well as some older folks, some of whom are living outside or living in their vehicles."
He tells KBND News they’re sheltering around 30 people each day. "Some people come in and they’re just dripping sweat. And we usually walk them straight towards the refrigerator, hand them a water bottle and a Gatorade, and they’ll just go through it immediately. They’re also really excited that we’re providing lunch and dinner every day. We have local folks who are dropping off clothes, and we’ve been able to give people a clean t-shirt when they’re so sweaty. We’ve also been partnering with Jericho Road, another local non-profit, to have a shower trailer here." He says the trailer was available two days and several people chose to take cold showers to cool off.
Hoeksema says those coming to the cooling facility this week are a different population than he has seen in the past, "Often, when we provide cold weather shelter, we’re serving more of an in-town homeless population. And I’ve noticed a lot of our out of town homeless population, who live in the dirt east of town are coming in, just because that is an extremely hot place to be with no shade and no sun protection." He adds, "For me, as a service provider, that’s actually a good thing because what we’re seeing with this cooling shelter, we’re actually breaking down a barrier between people who normally don’t access services at all in Redmond. And they’re beginning to build trust with us and other service providers who are coming through the building. They’re also really beginning to build trust in this facility where we will build a permanent low-barrier shelter in the future."
Shepherd's House runs two overnight shelters in Bend, which are staying open during the day during this heat emergency. But those two locations (275 NE 2nd St. and 1854 NE Division St.) have seen a combined 20 people on average each day seeking a place to cool off. Hoeksema isn't surprised the Redmond location is more popular, "Frankly, Redmond just doesn’t have a lot of comfortable places for people to spend time in air conditioning. So, the library will take them in for a short amount of time, sometimes the local coffee shops will take them in for a short amount of time, but they can’t hang out there long term." He also believes Bend is a few degrees cooler and many in the Bend houseless community may stay near the river where it's more comfortable, before returning to an overnight shelter.
The Redmond facility at Highway 97 and Veterans Way (1350 S. Hwy 97) is open from 11 a.m. until 6 p.m., during this heat emergency.