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Homeless shelter may open Monday at fairgrounds as temperatures dip

Modified: Saturday, Feb 1st, 2014

NEWPORT — Organizers of a temporary emergency warming shelter are prepared to open the Main Exhibition Hall at the Lincoln County Fairgrounds in Newport next week for those in need, depending on the weather.

The Newport weather forecast for the first week of February predicts cold temperatures in the mid- to low 30s, then warming up to the mid-40s during the day. That fits the program’s criteria for allowing overnight stays at the county building.

“If it’s around freezing for consecutive days, then we’ll open the shelter,” said Danielle Emerick, one of a half-dozen volunteer organizers. “We had our training for 15 volunteers last Sunday, and we’re ready to open. We have blankets and mats at the building, and now we’re just watching the local weather.”

The shelter will serve as an overnight stay for homeless from 6 p.m. to 7 a.m., featuring a warm evening meal and sack lunches distributed in the morning before it closes during the daytime hours.

“We’re planning on opening Monday for the week,” said organizer Traci Flowers, “but we won’t make that call until then. Our criteria on opening is when temperatures are near or below freezing, or when there are other elements such as heavy rain or sustained winds over 45 miles per hour.”

Rainy, cool weather is particularly dangerous for those living outdoors for extended periods because it can lead to hypothermia.

If the shelter is needed, Flowers said, organizers will place signs in Newport locations where homeless individuals often frequent, including soup kitchens, food pantries, the library and along Highway 101. Information will also be available at the News-Times, media websites and radio stations, she said.

“We’ll get the word out, and we’re planning to have at least 25 people show up when we do open,” Flowers said. “The doors will open at 6 p.m. and then close at 10 p.m. for the night.”

Organizers plan on serving a meal provided by individuals or organizations, primarily a crockpot-style evening dinner that can be served at the Exhibit Hall. They’re also collecting items for sack lunches, such as small bags of chips, string cheeses, water bottles and other nonperishable items.

“The Food Bank, Samaritan House, ICO (Inter-Christian Outreach), some churches and individuals are helping out there,” said Flowers. “But we need others to help provide meals and nonperishable items for lunches. Anyone who wants to volunteer can call me at 541-270-9822.”

Since the shelter wasn’t held last year, Flowers said, it’s important that the organizers receive feedback from people who use it this year.

“We need a survey or at least enough contact with them so we can learn what will make the shelter more livable for them,” she said. “The best way to know their needs and how we can meet them is by making a relationship with them. We hope to do more of that this year.”

Organizers said that volunteers would closely monitor the behavior and health of the overnight guests. They ask that those staying at the shelter not smoke, drink, engage in sexual activity or get involved in conflicts in or around the building.

The first shelter in recent years was staged during the winter of 2009-10 at the Exhibit Hall, and then moved to the Church of the Nazarene the year before being relocated to the Harney Street Building at the fairgrounds during the winter of 2011-12.

For the complete article see the 02-05-2014 issue.

Click here to purchase an electronic version of the 02-05-2014 paper.

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