Feb. 10, 2021 — Just in time for a cold forecast in our area, the Florence Emergency Cold Weather Shelter (FECWS) has officially opened for those that are unhoused and living outdoors.
In a ribbon cutting ceremony on Saturday, Florence Mayor Joe Henry was joined by City Councilor Sally Wantz and other community members in offering congratulatory comments for the work done by the leadership and volunteers at FECWS.
“For the past four years, the FECWS and their many community partners have successfully developed and operated a valuable resource for vulnerable members of our community during the winter months,” Henry said. “As we continue to address the many changes needed in light of COVID-19, the traditional indoor congregate shelters are not an option due to public health concerns and guidelines in place. These Pallet shelters will provide a safe and healthy alternative for those in need and the volunteers helping to provide this service.”
Earlier this year, FECWS received 21 Pallet Shelters from Lane County’s supply of 120 Pallet-brand shelters from Pallet, a company based in Everett and Seattle, Wash. These shelters allow people to have a warm, dry and safe place to spend the night while maintaining social distancing and sanitation required under COVID-19.
Partnerships between the county, city and private individuals have been successful in navigating administrative and bureaucratic hurdles to receive the funds needed to purchase the shelters and to create the infrastructure needed to hook up water and electricity to the individual units.
“The City of Florence was happy to help facilitate this partnership with the FECWS and Lane County to bring this new resource to our area,” Henry said. “Our teams have worked well together to make this option feasible to adapt to our current state and needs.”
There have been a number of individuals who have been instrumental in the opening of the emergency shelters, none more involved since the project inception than FECWS President Pat Burke.
“We are so very thankful for all the people who contributed to turning a treed and scrub brush plot into a level area covered with chipped vegetation and 21 Pallet shelters,” Burke said.
Volunteers worked to prep the current FECWS site, between Spruce Street and Highway 101 near Sand Ranch. The land belongs to First Step Florence, a nonprofit transitional housing program that provides a way for people to access a stable living situation.
She thanked the project foreman Bryan Haydel and Greg Wood, who coordinated the planning and working groups.
“We also want to give a huge acknowledgement of Leo Jones, who spent day upon day, in the rain, to get the Pallet shelters electrified so that our guests would have heat and light and the ability to charge their phones and use their iPads. There aren't thanks enough!” Burke expressed.
The support of the Florence City Council was central to the smooth completion of the shelter project and Wantz offered her enthusiasm for the efforts of all involved in the opening.
“I am very impressed with the volunteers who stepped up to construct this village for those who need a warm and dry place to rest their body, mind and soul for a night or two,” Wantz said. “Such dedication from our community is heartwarming to me.”
During his remarks, Henry also offered thanks.
“We are proud of the volunteers who have dedicated time to the FECWS and this project to develop the pallet shelters. Thank you to our city staff who have helped with logistics of acquiring and delivering the shelters. Thank you to Lane County for bringing this option to shelters across the county and for providing the needed funding. And thank you to our many community members and partners who have supported these efforts,” the mayor said.
Now that the FECWS has opened, Burke is encouraging those who have need for housing support at this time to remain upbeat and contact the FECWS for assistance.
“We are ready to welcome those who need shelter when the temperature drops to freezing. We're on Facebook at Florence Emergency Cold Weather Shelter and our flags will fly at Fred Meyer, Siuslaw Public Library, Safeway and Siuslaw Outreach Services by 10 a.m. the mornings we'll be open at 5 p.m.,” Burke said.
Each day the shelter plans to open, FECWS flies little white flags containing the image of a person sleeping under a shelter. Free transportation to the site is given through Rhody Express, with people able to access the bus from all Rhody Express stops between 4 and 6 p.m. that day.
“We provide a private, warm and safe space, a hot dinner and breakfast, and supervisory oversight,” Burke said.
There are also plans to host families together offsite if they have need for shelter.
Volunteers who want to contribute to the effort to provide shelter are encouraged to contact FECWS Volunteer Coordinator Meris Robison at [email protected]. Contributions can be a meal, a check, a supply of snacks or water.
Volunteers are also needed to staff the shelter and assist clients. For more information, contact Burke at 541-590-3598, 541-590-0652 or [email protected].