EUGENE — Workers from Pallet, a manufacturer based in Everett, Wash., this week delivered and assembled 25 modular personal shelters at St. Vincent de Paul’s Dawn to Dawn emergency homeless shelter site, 717 Hwy. 99N.
The Pallet structures feature rigid aluminum and composite panel construction, designed for assembly with almost LEGO-like simplicity in less than an hour each. The shelters, including 64-square-foot single and 100-square-foot double units, have lockable doors and windows and connect to electricity for built-in lighting, heating, and ventilation designed to keep the interiors at a safe and comfortable 72 degrees. (Detailed specs at palletshelter.com.)
Ultimately, SVdP staff will arrange 19 of the shelters into village-like clusters on the Dawn to Dawn site. They will transport six to the nearby Eugene Service Station, 450 Hwy. 99N, for use by participants enrolled in the Support Services for Veteran Families program. At both SVdP-managed sites, the Pallet structures will create a new transitional housing opportunity along the way from the streets to congregate tent shelters, and ultimately to stable permanent housing such as an apartment at one of SVdP’s many low-income complexes.
“I think the Pallet houses are great solutions; I wish I had 500 of them,” said Roxann O’Brien, SVdP’s director of homeless and emergency services. “These will be an incentive for the people here to engage with us in case management. So, we’re using this as a carrot to engage with those who are most serious about getting a job and working with us for housing.”
Other local agencies are receiving smaller deliveries of Pallet shelters concurrently; Lane County purchased about 170 and is making them available to varied programs serving the unhoused. It’s all part of a five-year plan by city and county officials to address homelessness, as conceived in a 2019 report by Technical Assistance Collaborative (TAC), a Boston-based consultancy.
New ‘Isolate’ dome a safe quarantine space
The Pallet houses are just one of the ongoing improvements at Dawn to Dawn, compelled by Eugene-Springfield’s growing homeless population and complicated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Physical distancing requirements have reduced the total beds available at Dawn to Dawn’s military-style tent city from more than 250 to just 105. At the same time, increased COVID-19 monitoring has required new ways to quarantine anyone exposed to others who tested positive, as is the case with individuals who had shared the same large tent.
As part of a joint effort with Lane County named the Isolate project, SVdP is erecting a 40-by-80-foot dome that will contain individual tents inside, spaced 10 feet apart, for sheltering people who are under quarantine but haven’t tested positive themselves. Unhoused individuals will complete their 14-day quarantine in this safe, dry, heated space, resting in a provided polar-rated sleeping bag and eating meals delivered directly from the Eugene Service Station. Even laundry service will be provided onsite thanks to a mobile laundry trailer.
All Dawn to Dawn guests must take weekly COVID-19 tests. More than two weeks have passed since any tested positive, so the lack of guests needing post-exposure quarantine has allowed temporary tents to be replaced with the larger, more permanent dome now being erected.
Other Dawn to Dawn developments
“I am more optimistic right now than I have been for a long time,” said SVdP Executive Director Terry McDonald, speaking to the improvements taking shape at Dawn to Dawn. “This is evolving pretty rapidly into a comprehensive service area for the homeless.”
Here are a few other noteworthy, recent, and future developments:
- Dawn to Dawn’s homeless services expanded greatly when The Hub opened onsite in October. In two modular clinics operated by SVdP in partnership with Willamette Family Inc., shelter guests have onsite access to basic routine and urgent health care, mental health services, addiction treatment and support groups, and weekly COVID-19 testing.
- This week, SVdP is adding wrought-iron fencing around most of the Dawn to Dawn perimeter as an added security measure. It’s intended to reduce foot traffic by people other than registered guests of the congregate tents and, eventually, the Pallet houses.
- In the coming months, plans call for a new modular apartment building to be integrated into the Dawn to Dawn site. Another form of efficient transitional housing, the building will contain five small individual apartments — each with a bedroom and bathroom — and a shared kitchen and living room. It could serve as a potential model for future St. Vincent de Paul low-income modular housing developments.
- Also in early 2021, SVdP will put forward a master plan, complete with architects’ renderings, for how to make the best use of the 717 Hwy. 99N property. The vision includes a purpose-built campus of new buildings, integrated with varied temporary shelter and transitional housing areas, and incorporating many of the kitchen/dining room and social-service functions that currently reside in the outdated Eugene Service Center.