County agency provides alternatives while city officials seek new partnership

by: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Homeless people get some sleep at the First Baptist Church of Beaverton's warming shelter in 2012.For Pastor Norm Langston, the decision to discontinue the severe weather warming shelter at Beaverton’s First Baptist Church this winter was not taken lightly.

“It was a tough call,” he said of canceling the volunteer-based program after five years. “We were meeting an important need. There is no other warming shelter in Beaverton. Because of that, it was something we really had to think and pray about.”

Considering the challenges the church and its volunteers were facing — patrons’ mental health issues, drug and alcohol use and the very nature of who used the shelter as the economy rebounded among them — church leaders ultimately decided it was time for another organization to step up and fill the gap. Langston said he notified city of Beaverton and Washington County officials and social services agencies of the change in July.

“Our hope was, by announcing it back in the summer, there would be a coalition of groups, or a larger church that would pick up the cause and begin investing resources,” he said. “We’re willing to be part of the solution, but we couldn’t be the sole solution to fill the need in Beaverton.”

If the recent spate of bone-chilling temperatures, one of the area’s longest stretches of sub-freezing temperatures in decades, is a harbinger of the yet-to-officially begin winter, it’s going to be a long one for those in the community lacking dependable, warm shelter and access to hot meals.

There are other options in the general area, however. by: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Brian Grayson was a regular guest of the Beaverton First Baptist Church's warming shelter when this photo was taken in 2012. He grew up in Hillsboro and lived in a sport-utility vehicle he purchased through seasonal employment in building demolition.

Finding shelter

Washington County Department of Housing Services officials are doing what they can to make sure those in need of shelter and a warm meal know where they can go when temperatures dip below 32 degrees between November and March.

“There is a gap with the Beaverton shelter closed,” said Annette Evans, homeless program coordinator for Washington County Housing Services. “We just want people to understand and know they can seek out resources in other communities.”

Implemented in 2008 to include shelters in Beaverton, Hillsboro, Forest Grove and Tigard, the county’s severe weather response plan has expanded to include Sherwood and Tualatin.

“People now are having to seek shelter outside their community, but there is shelter available,” she said. “Some are open only on specific days, while others open and closed based on extreme weather.”

As nighttime temperatures slipped into the 20s last week, St. Anthony Catholic Church in Tigard opened its doors at 12645 S.W. Pacific Highway. Tualatin’s severe warming shelter at Rolling Hills Community Church, 3550 S.W. Borland Road, is open Wednesday evenings, while Sherwood’s shelter at St.

Francis Catholic Church, 15651 S.W. Oregon St., is only open on Sundays.

In Hillsboro, SOS-Shelter (Sonrise), at 6701 N.E. Campus Way, and Safe Place Shelter, a daytime warming and evening shelter at 454 S.E. Washington St., are both open seven days a week.

“Individuals are accessing these shelters and receiving services,” Evans said. “They get on the MAX (train), or some have vehicles. They’re finding that there are resources available for those in the Beaverton community.”

Those seeking homeless assistance resources and shelter openings in the metro area can dial 211 or 503-222-5555 to access the 211 Information and Referral System. Local shelter information is also available online at

The right approach

Mike Mumaw, the city of Beaverton’s emergency manager, said his office is working to develop a partnership with another church in the city. But as he points out, the volunteer training and resource coordination that went into making the First Baptist Church shelter a success doesn’t happen overnight.

“It’s not a decision that can be done quickly or taken lightly,” he said. “Such a decision requires a lot of volunteers, resources, careful planning and training. Even if they had enough volunteers lined up to do a shelter today, it would still take time to get them trained and the necessary resources procured.”

In response to City Councilor Marc San Soucie’s query at Tuesday night’s council meeting regarding the future of a shelter in the city, Mumaw said it would take “till the end of winter” to get a new one up and running.

On the other hand, the First Baptist shelter opened rather abruptly in the midst of an unusually heavy and long-lasting area snowfall in late December 2008.

“It was really short notice,” Langston recalled. “City officials had the police call churches to see if they would open up on a temporary basis. We didn’t really know what we were doing or getting involved in, but we pieced it together the best way we could.”

Langston praised Kelly Nelson, the church’s minister of college students, with coordinating the shelter as it evolved from an ad hoc operation created in a blizzard’s wake to a smoothly run ongoing concern.

“Kelly did a great job,” he said. “She really worked hard and performed yeoman’s duty to make the shelter work over the last five years. It was a heavy assignment, both emotionally and in terms of time. It was a pretty intensive responsibility.”

Given the recent stretch of bitterly cold, if mostly dry, weather, Langston remains hopeful a solution to the Beaverton community’s severe weather shelter needs will come sooner rather than later.

“It torments me to think people are out in the cold weather now,” he said.

Cold weather solutions

Those seeking homeless assistance resources and shelter openings in the metro area can dial 211 or 503-222-5555 to access the 211 Information and Referral System.

For information on Washington County’s Severe Weather Response Plan, shelters and their hours and guidelines, visit

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