Former church sanctuary transformed into 22-unit dormitory for families experiencing homelessness; six Pallet shelters placed outside for additional short-term emergency shelter options.

The First Place Annex Night Shelter, administered by St. Vincent de Paul for families experiencing homelessness, now features 3,500 square feet of renovated dormitory space with increased capacity for 22 families. The new rooms each feature four solid walls and a door to grant all guest families a greater sense of privacy, dignity and stability as they navigate the daily struggles of homelessness.

The 22 new living spaces, from 125 to 172 square feet in size, each include one queen-sized mattress and bedframe and one twin bed per child; four electrical outlets and four USB charging outlets; and basic furnishings for family units of varying sizes. Some units share an interior hotel door, allowing families of 8-10 people to combine two rooms so they can remain together.

“As we strive to expand our capacity to serve an ever-greater number of families in need, this project also reflects our overall commitment to developing services informed by the best, most progressive, trauma-informed practices for sheltering families experiencing homelessness,” says SVdP Youth & Family Services Director Mike Yoshioka.

Previously, families staying overnight at the Annex — SVdP’s permanent home for Eugene’s long-running Interfaith Night Shelter Program — slept in soft-walled cubicles erected in the old sanctuary of what was formerly­ a 14,000-square-foot church. The cubicles provi­ded nominal privacy and separation, but did little to reduce noise levels or make families feel that they had their own, albeit temporary, living spaces.

Simply placing additional beds on gym or church floors is a more conventional and widespread solution to the growing need for overnight shelter capacity, Yoshioka notes. But by investing in more extensive and lasting upgrades at the Annex, he adds, “we have strived toward more thoughtful, intentional and sustainably impactful solutions.”

Improvements to the Annex — which also included installation of a fire-suppression sprinkler system throughout the whole building — were made possible by a generous donation from a private donor, who chose to remain anonymous.

Recent upgrades at SVdP’s First Place Annex Night Shelter include 22 new family dormitory units, as shown at top, and six new Pallet shelters, middle.

What’s more, SVdP acquired six new Pallet shelters through Lane County and installed them in the Annex parking lot, creating safe overnight space for as many as 24 additional people. Each with four bunks inside, the rigid modular structures are assembled from interlocking aluminum and composite panels.

SVdP staff might assign certain Annex guests to the Pallet shelters in order to distance them from others in the dormitory for medical, mental-health or other reasons. Pallet shelters also can provide overflow capacity during times of peak demand when the Annex’s indoor units are full.

More Annex background

The First Place Annex Night Shelter is a permanent home for the Interfaith Night Shelter Program, which rotated among faith communities in Eugene, Springfield and beyond for more than a quarter century before SVdP opened the Annex in late 2018.

In a former church facility purchased with donated funds, the Annex initially had capacity for as many as 19 families at a time. Renovations and additions in 2021 have increased that capacity to 22 families in interior dormitory rooms, and six additional families in Pallet shelters outside.

Annex families may stay as long as 90 nights while they work to secure housing, employment and other life-stabilizing services. Guests receive onsite case-management help from staff during their time at the Annex, with additional resources and referrals available during daytime hours at SVdP’s day shelter, First Place Family Center (FPFC).

To qualify for overnight shelter at the Annex, families experiencing homelessness must register at FPFC and be on the waitlist. In most cases, families can receive shelter on the same day of their intake if space is available.

Once accepted, families arrive at the Annex in the evening and enjoy activities hosted by volunteers and dinner made by SVdP’s kitchen manager in collaboration with FOOD for Lane County, the Eugene Mission and the interfaith community. Families then retire to their private dormitory rooms, rise early for a prepared breakfast, and leave the facility in the morning; some access the day shelter’s services before coming back to the Annex in the evening.

Ongoing need for donations, volunteers

SVdP’s First Place Annex Night Shelter has a continuing need for financial support and in-kind donations, as well as volunteers to assist with meals, activities and more for guest families. To learn more about how you can support the Annex and other SVdP Youth & Family Services programs that serve vulnerable community members, call 541-600-8454.