What’s Climate Got To Do with It?

Michelle’s Corner 9.22.21

In the month of August 2021, 3155 individuals in Lane County were identified as unhoused. In the language of the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), unhoused means that an individual is either sleeping in an emergency shelter, in a facility not meant for human habitation such as a vehicle or the street, or in a tent or hut. This doesn’t include individuals who are staying temporarily with friends as “couch surfers.”

In any average month, there are 3000 to 4300 people in Lane County that are considered unhoused. The “whys” and “hows” of how people got to this situation are many–you can check some of my past blogs if you like. From domestic abuse to economic hardship, from mental health crises to physical health barriers, everyone has a story to tell.

As an agency that has dozens of programs that range from homeless prevention to permanent supportive housing, ShelterCare has stayed nimble, able to pivot our services as the needs of our program participants and the community have changed over the years. We added a behavioral health component when we saw so many of our participants needed access to therapists that understood the unique issues facing them. We added medical recuperation when we saw that participants were having to exit the hospital and “heal” on the streets. When COVID hit, we were able to leverage our staffing resources to assist the county in getting millions of dollars out in Emergency Rent Relief.

We need to pivot again, and this time not because of our participants’ needs changing, but because of our changing CLIMATE.

The southern Willamette Valley has traditionally been a very moderate climate with a cool rainy season, and an occasional hot day or two, but I think we can all agree that extremes are now becoming the norm. Heat domes and droughts, wildfires, and cold snaps with snow and ice aren’t unexpected disasters, but regular seasons to prepare for each year. The residential facilities that are homes to some of our most vulnerable program participants, who are recovering from serious illness or injury or are housing families with young children and aging adults, were built for those moderate climates.

Imagine staying in a room when the heat outside climbs to over 90 degrees, but you can’t open a window due to wildfire smoke, all while you’re recovering from pneumonia.

How we provide services for people experiencing homelessness must take this new world of climate change seriously. It’s a health and safety issue. It’s a life or death issue in some cases.

ShelterCare is pivoting again, and we need your help. We are running a campaign to raise funds to update our units at the medical recuperation so that they have safe heating and cooling systems that will help our participants heal. Then they can focus on their goals of becoming healthy, obtaining permanent housing, education or work. We are proud to partner with Priority One Heating and Cooling, EWEB, Trillium, the Coquille Tribal Fund, and several private donors on this project. At this moment, we are in need of $60,000 to complete the project- this important project includes an update to our electrical system, air conditioning in all units at our medical recuperation, ADA updates for safety, and minor cosmetic updates to make the facility feel more comfortable.

Interested in helping? Contact development@sheltercare.org today.

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