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COVID -19 and the Homeless: News from the Frontlines in Eugene

Update from Ward 2 Rest Stop

Email from Tracy, co-manager of the Nightengale Hosted Shelters – Rest Stop in Ward 2. May 1, 2020

Hi Kate, 
My name is Tracy.  I am co-manager of Nightingale Hosted Shelters. I am the woman pictured in your blog in the “What is Eugene Doing about Homelessness” section. I think the title is something like that. We are living in Community Supported Shelters huts but we, NHS purchased them with fundraisers and donations, the city purchased 4 and CSS gave us 6+ huts.
We are a city sanctioned Rest Stop. Community Supported Shelters operates 2 different rest stops and builds the huts.  We at NHS just had our 6th year anniversary with 3 years living here in this location. We can have up to 20 residents here. We have a board of directors and alot of support from the SE Neighbors and people all over Lane County. We are grateful to be living here in the Good Samaritan lot”)
Our website is Sincerely, Tracy

My response (May 1, 2020):

Hi Tracy! Thank you so much for reaching out! I will update the article with the information you shared. I was Chair of the Southeast Neighborhood Board and helped facilitate the expansion of the Rest Stop from 8 huts to 20. I organized the canvass of the neighborhood around the Rest Stop. All the neighbors are very supportive. I am too! 
As your next City Councilor I will work hard to create more such Rest Stops in the city! They are so important and one excellent solution to the problem of homelessness. I also think it’s very important that you have running water and plumbing at that location. 
I will fight hard for more shelters for the homeless. It’s one of my top issues. Heather Sielicki of White Bird is one of my supporters. I frequently look to her to help me stay informed about homeless issues. Would you be willing to talk  to me on occasion? I want to be sure I get things right, and address the most important needs first. 
Thank you again for reaching out. Please let me know if there is anything I can do for you. Feel free to call or email anytime.
I hope you’re well and healthy.
Best regards, Kate

Hi Kate, 
Thank you for your help in canvassing the neighborhood and helping to approve our move to 20″). We show that rest stops are just people. We are kind and helpful neighbors. 
Heather is doing alot of great work for this city. I am grateful for her participation! Other effective folks have stepped up like Carry it Forward and a few other truly helpful people.
I would be glad to ch it chat anytime. I am a professional gardener and spring is on so i am pretty busy. Emails are a good way to communicate right now. 
Plus managing this camp during this covid-19 pandemic has been…busy. We are getting tons of support and we are all well and staying home as much as we can.
Thank you, Tracy

As your next City Councilor, I pledge to listen to your concerns, take action, and keep you informed. Just as I’m doing now. Just as I did as Chair of Southeast Neighbors; and just as I’ve been doing in a myriad of ways for the past 18 years living with you in Ward 2.

I know we’re all doing whatever we can to help through this intense and trying time, even while sheltering in place and the potential sense of isolation that brings. This article is an update for you about homeless and COVID -19 in Eugene.

On March 12, the Human Rights Commission Homelessness and Poverty Work Group sent the following recommendations to the Mayor, Councilors, and City Manager:

Dear Mayor, Councilors, and City Manager,

The COVID-19 pandemic has and will continue to change the way we live our lives for the foreseeable future.

The unhoused, forced to live in substandard conditions without adequate health care, tend to be more vulnerable to infectious diseases.

Only through reprioritizing our resources will we be able to stop the spread of this infection.

We are asking the Eugene City Council to take swift action to implement the following action items in light of the Oregon State of Emergency.

1. Suspend sweeps and implement shelter-in-place protocols during the declaration of emergency. People need enough sleep to keep their immune systems up and should not be forcibly deprived of medications and survival gear during this crisis.

2. Implement a moratorium on towing vehicles that house people, as these individual accommodations make it possible for people to self-quarantine.

3. Provide adequate access to hygienic facilities for toileting, bathing, and handwashing in areas with known encampments.

4. Replace Eugene Police with trained outreach workers to support the unhoused by distributing supplies including water for drinking and washing, hand sanitizer, food items, information about how to limit infection, and where to seek medical care.

5. Prepare to open emergency shelter space and engage homeless service system staff if consistent with public health recommendations.

6. Be ready to facilitate transportation assistance and accessible care for people with physical and/or mental disabilities or financial barriers.

To my knowledge, the above recommendations have yet to be approved and implemented.

This is all that the City is saying on their website about COVID-19 and the homeless:

We are working with our homeless service partners and the County to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 among people who are unhoused, including finding alternative shelter options, deploying handwashing stations, and making sure service providers have the supplies they need to stay healthy.

Our grassroots agencies are on it, and the following relays the news I’ve gathered:

News from White Bird, sent to me by Heather Sielicki on March 25

Over the next few days, White Bird will share news of a variety of new sheltering options for unhoused individuals during the pandemic. As part of the options, we are working to create a few dispersed, sanctioned camping sites following CDC guidelines. We are assisting with plans for nutrition, hygiene, peer support services, and outreach services at the camps.

Resource distribution sites are being created to provide camping gear and supplies, inform folks about the various camping and indoor shelter options, and offer support. White Bird’s Front Rooms at 341 E 12th Ave. and other places around town are planned for locations of the resource distribution sites.

Front Rooms is now open from 8am to 8pm, 7 days a week, for mail and messages, clothing, phone access and charging, water access, and hand washing. Porta-potties are available outside of the building. 

We are also working with the City of Eugene to create dispersed, sanctioned camping sites following CDC guidelines. We are assisting with plans for nutrition, hygiene, peer support services, and training to support outreach work.

We are working with the Lane County Coalition of Organizations Active in Disaster to coordinate networks of networks to streamline and prioritize resource distribution for vulnerable populations.

If you know of any people or organizations willing to (1) host a temporary shelter site, (2) be a food site to receive and distribute food from Food For Lane County partners, or (3) want to help build Conestoga huts for emergency shelter needs, please email and let us know. Additional volunteer needs related to the COVID-19 response are being posted at

There continues to be limited access to COVID-19 testing capacity and a lack of critical supplies. We are working with volunteers on effective prototypes for cloth masks and gowns. We are grateful to all who have contributed much needed supplies and financial donations. We have received nearly $10,000 in community support through online donations, the majority of these gifts were less than $100. Thank you for helping us continue to provide compassionate, humanistic healthcare, and supportive services throughout these challenging times. Our top needs right now are: 

Masks: N95 or ASTM 2/3

Goggles / sealing eye protection

Booties / Foot covers

Gowns – Fluid resistant

Cleaning Alcohol: isopropyl or ethanol (Everclear or Clear Springs is adequate)

Nitrile Gloves – All sizes

Thermometers and sheaths

News from The Mission, sent from Development Director Beth Sheehan

The Mission remains at capacity and in our women’s center, well over half of the population are over the age of 62, and most have underlying medical conditions, COPD, diabetes, mental illness (which is a challenge to maintain hygiene).  

Men’s dorm at The Mission

Ever since the kitchen fire of 2016, the Mission has seen an uptick in day users—the food is great and the smiles abound as we serve.  Last week—we installed “Above Ground” hand washing stations and hand sanitizer dispensers everywhere.  

Beds in the dorms were spread out and class rooms were re-purposed into smaller sleeping areas of 10 beds spaced apart.  We have done what we can to secure the “inside” and try to spread people out….Meanwhile:  The kitchen cafeteria was PACKED with guests and day users.  It has become apparent that we need to “protect” our overnight guests who are largely the most vulnerable.  

We know there are folks on the streets and in camps and that we have no control over what walks in our doors.  Any bed spacing becomes moot if droplets are being picked up on counter tops, door knobs, toilets….and so we are going to close our buildings to all but staff and overnight guests.  

Beginning tomorrow, our mobile team will deploy. These are Life Change men in our addiction recovery residential program.  They will deploy to designated areas to distribute meals and hygiene.  In the mean time, the city/county have got to figure out showers and access to hand washing.  

These are hard times and I believe we have a pretty long haul ahead of us…..what I hope is that the Mission isn’t criticized. We are following what the hospitals and other essential services are doing:  working to control the co-mingling of people and keep the facility sanitized.  

The people on the streets and in tent camps are numerous.  More than ever, the community needs to galvanize to keep themselves safe and serve these people in the most dignified but socially distant manner.  

Yes….I am swamped!  Sheryl has moved into the Mission—so that she is on campus. We have 2 other staff members on the Exec team moving into their offices. I’ll be on site to capture stories and social media and in the mean time, work from home applying for any emergency grant I can find!  Donations are dropping off for all non-profits and essential services.  

Later that day, Beth sent this news:

Hi Kate—I just want to make sure the Mission doesn’t get a black eye for closing the gates to the interior buildings for our overnight guests. We have many elderly women with walkers, oxygen and even wheel chairs. It is a huge challenge to maintain social distance, wipe everything down and continually clean without access control.  

There is a high degree of mental illness in this population—as you know—and fear and desperation.  We want to do everything in our ability to address basic needs to the camps outside while not permitting a free-for-all with no attention to if they washed their hands, have symptoms, etc. etc.  

Social distancing with the unhoused is a challenge but these are people!  People worthy of compassion and assistance.  How we do that and develop systems to help is the call of the hour for sure!  

Thank you for all you are doing with Short Term Renters! That is awesome.  I had heard Hotel 6 was closing.  I believe everyone wants to “help” but there can be a tendency to NIMBY reasoning—someone has to do the work!  Our LIfeChange guys head out tomorrow for a trial of mobile services that keep the crowds spaced and observe cleanliness.  It is spread by droplets so —gloves, soap, face masks.  If we can just keep that curve flat…….oh my…….elbow bumps to you for all you do!  

News From David Strahan, Homeless Advocate I received this news through FB messenger. These are David’s words ver batim

How emergency warming centers are going to open this weekend in Lane County we are greatly reduced our sites with only 2 adult sites opening Eugene and one adult site open in Springfield we have asked that all of our older volunteers do not volunteer for this activation.

An Egan Warming Center

Thank you, As a lifelong local resident I appreciate getting ny information directly. Thank you for making this possible. Im very concerned about the lack of services for our most vulnerable resudents, those without walls living in cars, TVs and blankets under bushs. They currently have Ø health screening options, No ability for shelter if sick or needing immediate care. We are creating a potential contagion issue by ignoring this danger. In addition to this, food resources are getting slim.. Are we willing to sacrifice this percentage of our population? David Strahan

Spfd is fumbling
Eugene is cramming all in one building. Mixing those with symptoms with those with fevers

What I’ve been doing to help

On March 22, I heard from Heather Sielicki, from White Bird that 40 people would be losing their hotel room housing when the Motel 6s close due to staff shortages. I immediately went to work thinking about a solution to this problem. 40 more people, many of them single parent families, could end up on the streets.

At the same time, I was hearing from STR owners that cancellations were many. I put 2 and 2 together, and out to STR owners to ask if any of them had non-owner occupied, or ADUs, or attached but separate units they would be willing to house people in.

A number of them said, yes, and within 24 hours, I had secured the potential to house 20+ people.

Heather gave my contact information to the new Homeless and Affordable Housing Strategist the City of Eugene and Lane County recently hired. She and I had a great conversation, then I emailed her the questions the hosts had. Things like how will payment and deposits work? Will there be supports in place? Who to contact if there is a problem.

That resource is ready and waiting. I also reached out to St. Vincent de Paul and others to let them know STR owners are on board to provide shelter if needed. Hats off to any and all who are willing to donate homes, parking lots, large lots in order to house our homeless and maintain distance in order to keep the virus from spreading.

Thank you for reading this article, Dear Reader. As your next Eugene City Councilor, I pledge to listen to your concerns, take action, and keep you informed. Just as I’m doing now. Just as I did as Chair of Southeast Neighbors; and just as I’ve been doing in a myriad of ways for the past 18 years living with you in Ward 2.

homeless shelters
Nightengale Hosted Shelters

THIS JUST IN: COVID-19: Community Response Fund & Related Resources

As a collaborative dedicated to the health and well-being of our community, Live Healthy Lane is closely monitoring developments surrounding the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in Lane County and determining how to help minimize its impact in our local community.

In line with our everyday work, Live Healthy Lane staff are actively supporting United Way efforts to assess and address the needs of Lane County nonprofits related to COVID-19.At this time, the United Way physical office is closed to the public, but our staff is working remotely and available by phone and email. Below are resources developed by and for community partners in response to COVID-19:

Community Response FundUnited Way has activated a Community Response Fund (CRF) to raise funds specifically to help local agencies provide vital aid to people in Lane County. This fund is designed to support nonprofits’ efforts to help people in our community who are experiencing hardship from the COVID-19 pandemic.

 As of Tuesday, March 24th and thanks to the generosity of PacificSource Health Plans and the Oregon Community Foundation, UWLC has over $100,000 in the CRF, is working to raise additional dollars, and has opened an application process for distribution. Please see the attached application.

Applications will be accepted on an ongoing basis. Applications received by Monday, March 30th at 5pm will be considered in the first of four rounds. Awards will be announced every two weeks and additional deadlines will be posted at  

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