Cold conditions cause concern
- Holly M. Gill
- Madras Pioneer - News
> With last week's temperatures dipping down to single digits, and this week's accumulation of snow, police and emergency services have been taking extra care dealing with the homeless.
On Jan. 23, police had several calls for at least two people who had passed out -- in separate locations -- and were in danger from the extremely cold weather.
Twice during the afternoon, Sgt. Dennis Schneider, of the Madras Police Department, and the Jefferson County Emergency Medical Services were called out to check on a man who seemed to be unconscious at two different locations on Fifth Street. On the second occasion, the man was transported to Mountain View Hospital.
Out of concern for the man, Schneider waited and transported the man to the jail after the hospital released him later in the evening.
"I've been a cop for 22 years, and it was the first time I've ever arrested someone for littering to keep him from freezing to death," said Schneider.
John Wilcox, paramedic with JCEMS, said the ambulance had surprisingly few calls to check on people, considering the weather -- only three.
"It hasn't seemed to affect our normal population of homeless people that I can tell," he said.
Nevertheless, JCEMS is being careful to ensure that no one freezes. "The way it is outside right now," he said on Friday, "(you can freeze) pretty fast, especially if you're drinking a lot of alcohol."
The First Baptist Church of Madras opened up a temporary shelter last week to provide a safe, warm place for the homeless to stay during the cold weather.
From Monday, Jan. 21, through Friday, Jan. 25, the church had up to nine people spending the night in its temporary shelter.
"They came off the streets," said Pastor Richard Burson. "We housed them, provided coffee and snacks, and breakfast -- cereal and milk -- in the morning."
The shelter opened again on Sunday night, and was set to open on Monday. "We've already had two calls this morning for people who are homeless and have a need," he said on Monday afternoon.
Burson said John Campbell is managing the temporary shelter, which can house about 14 people on six beds, five cots and three couches.
"We're not set up to do this for a long period of time," he pointed out. "When it starts warming up, we'll close it. We just don't want to leave them out on the street, freezing to death."
The homeless can access the shelter from the Sixth Street entrance to the church, which is located at 85 N.E. A St.
While they don't officially open until 6:30 p.m., "If people knock on the door, we'll let them in," Burson said.
On the south end of town, the Madras Gospel Mission is taking in homeless people in a rented house on U.S. Highway 97, across from the Silverado.
Jim Struck, director of administration for the mission, said the house has five regular residents who have histories of problems with drugs or alcohol, but others are welcome.
"We have taken in dozens of folks who needed places to stay for a night or two," he said, noting that they have one hard, fast rule: no drugs or alcohol.
"That's the one place we draw the line," he said. "They won't be bringing drugs or alcohol in."
The house has only nine beds, according to Struck, "but we do, of course, have plenty of sleeping bags. We'll get people out of the cold."
Mark Harner and his wife Dana supervise the residence -- affiliated with the Metolius Friends Church -- and ensure that people are fed and clothed, Struck noted.
"We haven't had a huge influx because of the weather," he said.