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Eight huts will soon provide 16 houseless people with a warm place to sleep in Warm Springs

PMG PHOTO KIVA HANSON - The eight huts constructed on the corner of Wasco and Autmn in Warm Springs will be able to house 16 people. The complex will also hosts a manager who will live on site, a free shower house and a food cart run by the tribe to provide meals to the patrons.

During the winter months, temperatures in Central Oregon can reach below freezing. For those without homes to sleep or spend the day in, these temperatures can be detrimental to health, and even prove deadly.

In Warm Springs, solutions to the homelessness crisis are in action. Eight huts, complete with bunkbeds, storage shelves and heaters, have been placed on the corner of Wasco St. and Autumn Ave. The huts are designed to function as a small village that provides a safe and warm place for unhoused neighbors to sleep, and includes a shower house, food cart for meals and easy access to prevention and behavioral health services across the street.

The huts are set to open in the next few weeks after construction is completed.

Right now, Warm Springs has a temporary solution. The gym, part of the old school building, is usually used for a variety of cultural, education and sports activities.

"We have everyone in the gym right now, which isn't ideal. We'd like to use the gym for community things like a round dance or a pow wow," said Ron Hager, Health Promotions and Preservation Manager for the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs..PMG PHOTO KIVA HANSON - The Warm Springs community gym holds 10-15 people a night on cots with cloth dividers to keep social distancing. The new huts will allow the community to use the gym for its usual purpose.

Those who need access to a warm and safe place to sleep in Warm Springs can access the warming center currently at the gym 24/7. The gym houses about ten cots with fabric dividers between them, and access to a bathroom, shower, meals and snacks.

PMG PHOTO KIVA HANSON - Warm Springs has a store of nonperishable food items used to provide food for anyone in need. Ron Hager, pictured,  is in charge of managing all the prevention related services for the tribe.

To use the warming shelter, people must provide proof of vaccination from COVID-19, and may not use or carry drugs or alcohol on the premises. Hager says these rules prove an issue for some.

"We really want to help people here get on their feet, and these rules help us provide those services," said Hager.

Typically, the shelter serves eight to 10 people a night. The new huts, which will follow the same guidelines, are designed to provide even more support and dignity to people without houses.

Each of the eight huts has four bunk beds, a heater, windows, and shelving for storage of personal items. During COVID, they're only housing two people per hut which means their capacity will be 16, higher than they serve now in the gym.

Each hut costs $11,000 to build, and along with the shower house, living quarters for the site manager and a food cart, the total cost of the site is upwards of $100,000.

"The huts just add another dimension to it," said Hager. "We can connect better, provide more services, and hopefully really aid in transition for these people."

The huts, a project partnered with NeighborImpact, will allow unhoused people to have a more substantial place to stay warm and allow them greater access to services like drug cessation programs, behavioral health services and job connection services provided by the tribe right across the street from the village.

"We really believe that once you treat everyone with dignity and respect, you can start to make an impact in their lives, and we hope these huts are a push in that direction," said Hager.


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