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The Struggles of Snowmaggedon 

For most people, late-season storms meant hassles with driving and shopping. For some, however, it was a battle to survive

Take a look outside right now and chances are the evidence is still there: Bend received record-setting snowfall in February, getting nearly 46 inches during the month. That set a new record, according to the National Weather Service. Bend's previous record for the month of February was 23.3 inches, set in 1917.

click to enlarge A car sits completely buried in the snow near downtown Bend. - CHRIS MILLER
  • Chris Miller
  • A car sits completely buried in the snow near downtown Bend.

February was also the third-coldest on record for Bend and the second-wettest, according to NWS. Bend's average temperature was 27 degrees—7.2 below average—with average lows at 17.9 degrees, or 8.1 degrees below normal.

The snow and the low temperatures caused ongoing irritations including driving issues and school and governmental closures. But for people experiencing homelessness, harsh winter weather has the potential to be fatal.

Sagewood Sanctuary, Bend's only "low-barrier" homeless shelter, was at full capacity during last week's storm, according to Sally Pfeifer, who runs Pfeifer & Associates—a facility offering drug and alcohol treatment support and other support for some of the area's most vulnerable, and also owns the building where Sagewood is located.

Sagewood can take in 21 people each night, Pfeifer said. The clients they take in are the ones who aren't allowed elsewhere because of issues like undesirable behavior at other shelters, addiction or mental health issues, or because they have pets.

Bethlehem Inn is another homeless shelter in Bend that provides beds, food and case management services for adults and children experiencing homelessness in Central Oregon. Bethlehem said on its Facebook page on Feb. 26 that it's out of snow gloves, hats, scarves and handwarmers and is very low on thermal socks. Bethlehem Inn's website has a Current Needs tab for people interested in donating.

Shepherd's House Ministries—which operates an emergency shelter in Redmond—said on its Facebook page that they housed 122 overnight guests at its five facilities on Feb. 25—more than they'd ever served before. Shepherd's House said they still need donations, but said on March 3 that the community donated nearly $10,000 in a two-day period.

Meanwhile, Central Oregon Veteran's Outreach has been maintaining a current list of shelters on its Facebook page, including those in La Pine, Sisters and Redmond—where a temporary shelter moves among various churches. Pfeifer said donations of goods and money to support the staff at Sagewood can also be helpful.

"We had a wonderful woman drop off gift bags yesterday," Pfeifer told the Source Feb. 28. "Each had two bottles of water, a pair of amazing socks, a protein shake and two candy bars. The residents were very grateful."

Pfeifer said she saw three things during last week's storm that made her feel shocked and humbled.

"What I witnessed last night was first, a young man in such a state of anxiety that he could barely make speech and breath," Pfeifer said. "When I gave him a gift pack provided by that sweet woman earlier, he cried.

"Next, a woman brought in with her dog from Cooley Road from the cops and search and rescue," Pfeifer said. "When she removed her socks, her toes were blue and black. Paramedics came and took her to the hospital. The dog, Penny, is still with us.

"Last, as I was driving away down our alley, a man was on the ground pulling his body to the shelter as he didn't have use of his legs," Pfeifer said. "How far had he come? Who else saw him doing this? I feel like I live in some Third World country instead of rich Bend, Oregon."

Sagewood—which is Bend's only approved warming shelter—opens at 8pm on freezing nights, closing again at 7am the following morning. For people interested in donating, Sagewood is located inside Pfeifer & Associates at 23 NW Greenwood Ave., in Bend.

"We need a large facility where we can house people at night and drop in during the day for connection with services," Pfeifer said. "Most landlords won't rent to us. If we want to make an impact, this is a start, followed by housing with employees providing support services to get people working and functioning in our community."

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