By the time it’s dark on winter weekday nights, most of the offices on the north end of downtown Bend are empty and quiet. At Sagewood Sanctuary, though, the night’s work is just beginning.
It’s Bend’s only dedicated warming shelter, open for the past two winters inside the Pfeifer & Associates drug addiction treatment center on Greenwood Avenue. In a winter that saw nighttime temperatures as low as 3 degrees, it’s one of the only places keeping some of the most vulnerable Central Oregonians alive.
With the end of winter approaching, Sagewood Sanctuary is looking ahead at how it can provide services year-round. An influx of cash grants during the past week means the shelter can extend services beyond the season and move ahead with plans to create a drop-in center to connect homeless people with resources, said Larry Kogovsek, chairman of Sagewood Sanctuary’s board of directors.
His staff has connected with the people who use the shelter, he said.
“We laid the groundwork by establishing relationships with people there, really establishing a community,” Kogovsek said. “Now we can really get started, not just keeping people warm and dry but really start to get them off the streets.”
But Sagewood Sanctuary may find itself without a space.
Sally Pfeifer, owner of Pfeifer & Associates, said she doesn’t want to continue hosting the shelter at her building when winter returns.
Sagewood Sanctuary is set up differently than most shelters. The doors are never locked, and people come and go throughout the night. Ramen noodles, peanut butter, coffee and hot cocoa are available on a table next to loose tobacco and rolling papers, in an attempt to keep guests who smoke from scrounging for cigarette butts throughout downtown.
Mats are spread throughout the 4,000-square-foot shelter, and though lights stay on, music plays and people talk for hours after the doors open at 8 p.m., some people find ways to sleep through the noise, becoming just heads and hands and feet sticking out from under a motley selection of blankets in corners of rooms.
The two managers at the shelter, David Lynch and Kara Chamberlain, both 29, spent years homeless themselves. So did most of the other paid staff at Sagewood Sanctuary.
“Obviously, it’s a lot easier to relate to someone who’s been through it,” Lynch said.
Chamberlain, who was homeless and traveling for about nine years, studies human services at Central Oregon Community College. She said the model of peer support at Sagewood Sanctuary helps when it comes to the types of issues that caused churches that hosted warming shelters in the past to stop doing so.
“We have lots of issues,” Chamberlain said. “We work through them instead of shutting it down.”
The shelter asks that people sign in, but it doesn’t ask for IDs or conduct any kind of background check. It also doesn’t turn people away because they’re drunk or high, and staffers have used naloxone, commonly referred to by its brand name Narcan, to revive five people who overdosed on narcotics this winter.
Sagewood Sanctuary has only two rules: Don’t start drama at the site and do not, under any circumstances, try to sell drugs.
“For me, that’s it,” Chamberlain said. “You’re out, and you’re not coming back.”
The shelter accepts pets, and at points this winter hosted eight dogs at a time, a few cats and a parrot.
“This is for people who fell through the cracks, whether it’s anything from having a dog to a criminal history,” Lynch said.
The shelter’s low-barrier approach means people like Ty Kaufman and his 4-year-old Shar-Pei/pug mix, Egor, are welcome. Kaufman, 39, has been on his own since he was 15 and travels by bike, with plans to visit family in Reno, Nevada, and Fresno, California, once the weather warms up.
“Right now, I’m stuck here until after winter,” Kaufman said.
He goes by Monkey, a name he says he got from a Bend police officer who saw him scale the Deschutes Public Library building downtown to retrieve a child’s balloon. He and Egor — a friendly and quiet dog who wanders through the shelter accepting greetings from guests who all know him by name — are welcome at Sagewood Sanctuary.
Kaufman has a criminal history that means he can’t stay at other places. He’s a registered sex offender, stemming from a 2002 conviction in Oakland, California, for having sex with a teenager when he was in his early 20s. He was also convicted of grand theft and entering a noncommercial dwelling in California in the late 1990s, and of attempted sodomy in Coos County in 2013 following an accusation that he sexually assaulted a traveling companion.
Kaufman said he hasn’t been in legal trouble since he got Egor and bottle-fed him as a puppy four years ago, and court records bear that out. At Sagewood Sanctuary, he’s just one of dozens of people who come in with their own pasts, checkered or otherwise, and are offered a warm place to sleep.
“The shelter here is like the best shelter to be in,” he said.
The existence of Sagewood Sanctuary takes pressure off Bend police officers, Police Chief Jim Porter told the Bend City Council earlier this month. When homeless people don’t have a warm place to sleep at night, officers end up spending time each morning rousting people who sought warmth in foyers downtown, Porter said.
Chasing homeless people out into the cold takes an emotional toll on officers, Porter said. He said his department recruits officers who score highly on tests for emotional intelligence, and they’re caring cops
“It would seem like that would be something we want to support and save my officers time to be out doing things like monitoring speeds in school zones or monitoring speeds on the parkway during commutes rather than pushing people out into the cold,” he said.
The city of Bend contributed $5,000 to Sagewood Sanctuary this year, City Manager Eric King wrote in an email. The shelter also received $2,500 from Deschutes County, $2,500 from St. Charles Bend and was approved for up to $24,000 from the Central Oregon Health Council this past week, with $12,000 available immediately and the rest if needed, Kogovsek said.
That money helps pay the staff who stay overnight at the shelter, buy supplies as needed and pay rent at the Pfeifer building.
Sagewood Sanctuary pays $100 per night to Pfeifer to use the building and has paid a little more than $10,000 this year, Kogovsek said. The building space is about 4,000 square feet, meaning Sagewood Sanctuary pays about $0.75 per square foot on a monthly basis. It’s a bargain compared to Bend office space, which goes for around $1.50 to $2 per square foot, according to Compass Commercial’s fourth-quarter 2018 commercial real estate report.
Without guaranteed space to operate its warming shelter next winter, the Sagewood Sanctuary staff are looking for a new location, one that will allow homeless people looking for resources to drop in year-round.
The nonprofit is seeking more money and available property in the downtown area to set up a year-round center. It is accepting monetary donations through its Facebook page, where Lynch also posts about any supplies it needs.
“Bend definitely needs a drop-in center,” Chamberlain said. “Every city I’ve been in being homeless and hopping trains has a drop-in center.”
— Reporter: 541-633-2160; firstname.lastname@example.org