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The radio station’s mission is to provide a listener-supported on-air forum for artists, activists, and others whose voices have been marginalized or excluded from the airwaves. Seniors, women, children, teenagers, people of color, the homeless, and the LGBTQ communities, among others, are invited to host and produce a wide variety of humanity enhancing programs. The station features local performing artists on a regular basis. KEPW’s news and public affairs department emphasizes reporting local events from throughout our listening area. Contact KEPW to support or volunteer. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Phone: 541-833-0622
Eugene, Oregon—Every call that is dispatched through the radio, twenty-four hours a day, to the CAHOOTS crisis responders is a tiny mystery, a staticky, incomplete assemblage of details. “White female in her thirties, brown hair, black mid-length shirt, last seen on Sixth, yelling and running into traffic,” for instance, on a recent Saturday evening in late August.
The responders in this case—Michael Williams, an emergency medical technician, and Ashley Hubbard, an EMT and mental health crisis worker—piloted their bulky white Ford Explorer van toward a likely strip of Sixth Avenue, a downtown thoroughfare, shortly before sunset. Aside from a handful of restaurants seating people outdoors, the avenue was quiet, and they soon found a woman who fit the description outside the High Priestess Tattoo Shop on Sixth and Charnelton Street. She was smoking a cigarette and crying noisily, with a crumpled bunch of papers in her other hand. When she saw the responders, she started talking.
“They won’t help me!” she wailed, over and over. “I just want my stuff!”
Hubbard sat cross-legged next to her in the parking lot and asked her what was going on. She learned that the woman had been in the county jail for two days, for disorderly conduct, and she couldn’t figure out how to get what had been seized at the time of her arrest. The papers she held included a pink “prisoner property receipt,” listing “various items in bags,” and a check for thirty-three dollars, equivalent to the cash on her person when she was arrested. Tiffany—I am using a pseudonym to respect her privacy—was very thin and had matted brown hair. She had sores on her arms and wore black track pants pushed up to her calves and gray canvas sneakers with untied laces.
“We can help you,” said Williams, calmly. They convinced her to get into the back of their van, which is fitted with two passenger seats behind a plastic partition, and drove a couple minutes to the Lane County Jail. Williams took her papers and set out for the property retrieval office. Meanwhile, Hubbard continued talking to Tiffany in soothing tones.
“Where have you been sleeping?”
“I have a house on Madison Avenue.”
“Will you go back there after this?”
“I don’t know.”
Hubbard offered some Ritz crackers and a carton of almond milk, which Tiffany accepted. Then Williams came back with Tiffany’s things—a garbage bag filled with bedsheets, clothes, and more sneakers.
“This is a very easy solution to a bureaucratic problem,” Williams said, for my benefit. “It could be blown up into a bigger thing, but it doesn’t have to be.”
Tiffany seemed momentarily placated, but then became upset again after rifling through the bag, from which she suspected some key items had been omitted, including her notebooks. Their discussion of what had been lost went on for a few minutes until Williams asked her: “Can we give you a cigarette and go for a drive? Let’s not catastrophize. We’re going to think this through, okay?” Instead, she lay prone on the sidewalk, within eyesight of the county jail, wrapped in a fleece blanket from the plastic bag.
“Where do you want to go?” asked Hubbard. She told Tiffany about a drop-in facility called the Hourglass Community Crisis Center. “I don’t want counseling, I don’t want to talk to anybody,” Tiffany moaned. She stubbed out her cigarette on the curb and curled up.
Hubbard reiterated the offer and handed Tiffany a card with the CAHOOTS phone number on it. “Can you stay safe or call us?”
Williams and Hubbard got back in the van, and Williams logged the case, including Tiffany’s name and birthday, into a Panasonic Toughbook. They drove away after dedicating a full half hour to her case.
“I think this is not a bad outcome actually,” he mused to Hubbard. “It seemed like that suicidal ideation was more out of frustration than anything.” They had just solved one pressing problem for her at the jail, and on top of that, by the time they left her, she was dozing off and thus no longer agitated in a public place.
The first time I witnessed this deliberately circumscribed approach in action, I found it to be counterintuitive, and almost callous. But over the course of several weeks, I came to see why it is integral to CAHOOTS: the program’s narrowly defined scope and its responders’ practiced lack of attachment to any particular outcome, either short- or long-term, are essential to their effectiveness.
When I asked Williams later where he thought Tiffany would end up after this, let alone how she would cash that check, he gently parried my question with one of his.
“What’s the best outcome for today?” he asked, rhetorically. CAHOOTS members can transport people to staffed services and hospitals, or counsel them, or give them food or shelter supplies, but the list is not much longer than that. “We’re an intervention team,” Williams explained, with deliberate limits, honed over decades of operation, as to the degree and duration of that intervention.
“We’re trying to meet people where they’re at,” Hubbard added, a refrain I heard from nearly a dozen other people involved with CAHOOTS.
“And that builds trust between us and our clients,” picked up Williams. “We might actually have multiple contacts with Tiffany. And each of those times, we’re not going to force her to do anything. So there will be more trust there.”
The need for trust, in place of force, has been a recurrent theme of police reforms discussed across the country over the long summer that followed George Floyd’s murder in Minneapolis on Memorial Day. The idea is that armed police officers are simply called to address too many situations, often ones in which trained mental health or social workers would be more effective and more humane. CAHOOTS has been in operation since 1989, administered by a local nonprofit, the White Bird Clinic, and publicly funded by municipal government, making it one of the oldest such organizations in the country. And the service it provides—responding to crises that would elsewhere, by default, become police matters—has lately drawn national attention.
White Bird was founded in 1969, in part to respond to the fallout of that decade’s radical upheavals, which had left a lot of runaways and unhoused young people in countercultural hubs like Eugene. The clinic was formed by an ad hoc collective of graduate students, medical workers, and concerned citizens who wanted to help people they knew would be unlikely to seek help from the police or enroll in regular treatment for their problems. It eventually evolved into a more formal, official program—at the request of the Eugene Police Department itself.
This wasn’t as radical a shift as it might sound, according to David Zeiss, one of the clinic’s earliest members, who retired in 2014 but remains on its board of directors. “Throughout the 1970s, some Eugene policemen would informally call on us for help,” he said. The police recognized the value of their unique service, and that interest only grew during the 1980s, when the concept of community policing enjoyed one of its cyclical periods of currency. But in the years leading up to the announcement of a formal collaboration between the clinic and the police department, there was a vigorous debate on both sides about how closely the crisis responders and law enforcement officers could be allies.
Zeiss himself was a holdout. “I had a cluster of concerns,” he said, including how well the police would maintain patient confidentiality, and whether the alliance would violate the public trust from the point of view of their most vulnerable client populations. What changed his mind, finally, was the promise of “relatively abundant, consistent funding for crisis intervention.”
On the other side, the decisive swing vote on the city council to approve a pilot program in 1989 came from a conservative councilman who was “not politically aligned with White Bird,” but who had had family members helped by CAHOOTS, according to the Clinic’s coordinator Ben Brubaker. One of the concessions negotiated in this early phase by Zeiss was that the police would not force CAHOOTS responders to take down anyone’s last name—so a crisis call would not trigger a warrant check and possible arrest. And Zeiss found that his initial misgivings evaporated as the decades went by. “Now, there is much less mistrust in both directions, because we have literally waited out a whole generation of Eugene police,” he said. “There’s essentially no one left in the force who doesn’t know about CAHOOTS; we have become sort of a background assumption.”
Despite the passage of time, White Bird’s radical founding ethos lives on. Its charter stipulates that no member can make more than 25 percent more than the lowest-paid employee’s wage. Today, CAHOOTS responders earn eighteen dollars an hour, though a growing number of employees are pressing to raise the hourly wage to twenty-five dollars. But it remains a consensus-based organization, which holds regular, and sometimes intense, all-hands meetings, so staff members first have to persuade all their colleagues that their jobs merit higher compensation and then have to succeed in renegotiating the organization’s contracts with the Eugene and Springfield police departments.
“I think twenty-five dollars is highly, highly feasible,” said Robert Parrish, who joined CAHOOTS in 2004 and is the currently longest-serving responder. “It reflects the fact that our jobs have elements of risk and require a degree of training that is just a little different from other programs at the center…and a higher wage would help people think of this as a long-term career, rather than a waystation.” For a CAHOOTS worker who takes four twelve-hour shifts a week, their salary works out to about $43,000 a year. The starting wage for a Eugene police officer is $64,542.40 (at an hourly wage of $31.03) and can go up to over $82,000.
“I feel like we’re presented as a low-cost model to save money,” said Williams, who is in favor of renegotiating wages sooner. “We are an alternative to the police, sure, but we’re also a mental health first-responders organization on our own. It’s not as though the police are just allowing us to use their radios for fun.”
CAHOOTS has three vans available, two constantly circulating Eugene, the other in the adjacent town of Springfield, with professional in each. These responders usually log between fifty and seventy reports such as Tiffany’s in every twenty-four-hour period.
Williams’s and Hubbard’s shift runs from 5:00 PM one day to 5:00 AM the next. Together, they encounter the full gamut of urban human distress: drug overdoses, mental health crises, potential suicides, public intoxication, and first aid emergencies. Many of their dispatches come through 911 calls, but some also come through CAHOOTS’s own crisis line.
The demand for CAHOOTS’s interventions has ballooned, with the number of calls per year doubling from 2014 to 2018. By its own reporting, the program’s statistics are impressive: last year, their staff needed to call for police backup on only 150 of about 23,000 calls. The numbers are shaping up to be roughly similar this year, though precise data has not yet been tallied, said Brubaker. And in its entire history, not a single responder has been seriously injured on a call, said Parrish, despite some intense situations.
Well before this summer’s historic protests against police brutality, CAHOOTS had been advising similar projects and pilot programs in cities such as Denver, Oakland, Portland, and Olympia, Washington, which voted to create an unarmed Crisis Response Unit in 2017. But the experiences of CAHOOTS and its spinoffs have gained a new, instructive pertinence as municipalities nationwide look to divest parts of their public safety apparatus from police departments.
In November 2017, Olympia residents voted for a “public safety levy,” a property tax to address the public safety situation in its downtown area, especially to address mental health issues. When Anne Larsen took on the task of establishing a crisis response team in Olympia, she made it her business to learn how CAHOOTS operated. Her official job title is outreach services coordinator for the Olympia police, but she had to muscle Olympia’s version of the program through the police department.
The city ended up contracting with a company called Recovery Innovations International to hire a small team of workers, now numbering six, who form its Crisis Response Unit. Last quarter, they handled 511 calls, said Larsen. Parrish came up from Portland in April 2019 to help train the team, riding along with CRU responders for three days.
The CRU has different priorities and constraints to CAHOOTS. It cannot involve EMTs, because in Washington State emergency medicine falls under the purview of the fire department, not the police department. And its staff, who are mainly trained as social workers, are not currently eligible for the police union, so they have much less liability protection. Limited funding also means the service is not round the clock.
“I thought we would have access to more calls,” Aana Sundling, a crisis responder, told me, “but it turns out, even responding to suicide attempts is sort of above our pay grade.”
Initially skeptical—CRU members were not quick studies with radio dispatch etiquette, for one thing—the Olympia police department has quickly come to see the value of their work. “When I started in policing more than twenty years ago, the approach to something like homelessness was to just arrest people constantly so that they would have no incentive to stay in the city,” said Lieutenant Sam Costello, head of Community Policing. “We’d get some callers ten times a night and did not have any solution that was not handcuffs. And now, we just call CRU… and they handle it.”
For over a year now, Tim Black, the director of consulting at White Bird Clinic, Anne Larsen in Olympia, and counterparts in Oakland, Portland, and Toronto have regularly corresponded about their initiatives through email. “For models seeking to emulate CAHOOTS,” said Parrish, “it’s probably most important to know that people might not immediately buy in, but that they should give people time to evolve.”
“I think the biggest thing that we’ve encountered this summer,” said Black, who has been fielding hundreds of consulting requests lately, “is that there’s this perception that this type of model can only occur if and when police departments are reduced. [But] we’re not trying to make decisions around public safety funding for other communities. All we’re trying to do is articulate that there’s a very distinct need for a behavioral-health-first response.”
At first sight, employing trained crisis responders instead of police to address acute emergencies seems like a pragmatic fix that could potentially command very broad community support. Setting up such programs need not, for example, hinge on defunding the police, though they could just as easily be part of a radical overhaul of a police department and its budget. To the responders in Eugene and Olympia, though, access to police radio is not simply a necessary tool for the job, but also a guarantee of last-resort security.
“It’s funny because we’re lately presented as an alternative to the police, but we couldn’t do our job without the police,” said Henry Cakebread, another CAHOOTS member. “They underscore our safety.”
Hubbard said she has called for police backup when agitated people have run into traffic, for domestic violence situations, and even, occasionally, during suicide attempts, if verbal de-escalation doesn’t do the job. “All of our actions are voluntary, but if police deem someone an imminent danger, they can force them to go to the hospital,” said Cakebread.
This kind of delicate and, again, sharply circumscribed alliance between police and crisis responders requires a degree of cooperation, comfort, and trust that is actively worked for over time. CAHOOTS interventions also depend on a value-neutral, nonjudgmental handling of manifestations of serious social problems that is counterintuitive and deeply unfamiliar to most US agencies currently involved in public safety. On top of that, these projects have thus far depended on recruiting, training, and retaining a large staff—CAHOOTS has about forty active responders—that is both comfortable with their intensive approach and willing to work in an intense environment at much lower salaries and with fewer benefits than police officers.
CAHOOTS’s headquarters is a grey-shingled one-story house on West Seventh Avenue. Inside, there are rows of metal lockers for the responders who shuffle in and out all day, a meeting room, couches, and a kitchen with a well-worn microwave. There are mountains of first-aid supplies and food donations. The responders wear T-shirts with the White Bird logo, long pants, and heavy-duty shoes like Doc Martens and Blundstones. They sling police radios on coiled cables across their chests. I accompanied pairs of them on three of their standard twelve-hour shifts, two through the night and one in the daytime.
Their vans are stocked with water bottles, tuna packets, and Ritz crackers, as well as, since the pandemic started, boxes of plastic gloves and extra masks. A cabinet attached to one side of the van holds basic medicines and first-aid supplies, and personal hygiene items like tampons.
There is no typical shift, and the calls I observed included: bringing several people to the university hospital’s emergency room, picking up used syringes whose locations were called in as tips, transporting unhoused people to shelters for the night or giving others blankets and extra shirts, dressing wounds for people living in motels and shelters, rousing a woman who had overdosed on a stranger’s doorstep in a residential complex, talking a young trans girl through her suicidal ideation, and counseling a man who had gotten too drunk to go to his scheduled detox program and had to make it through another night at home with his beleaguered wife.
CAHOOTS EMTs have a slightly different job description than a hospital EMT, said Williams. “I don’t do things like IV drips and intubation, but I do respond to chronic unmanaged conditions that traditional EMS would not.” This often includes wound care and dressing, especially for chronic drug users. One man on a shift I attended had had his leg wound dressed for several days in a row by CAHOOTS; his right calf had had an inch-deep cavity that had been eaten away by maggots.
Repeat clientele is a pervasive phenomenon. On both of the nights I was on call, the responders addressed a seventy-two-year-old woman, Andrea, with both bipolar disorder and kidney failure, living with her daughter and son-in-law. She had gotten in the habit of calling CAHOOTS herself. When Williams and Hubbard rang their townhouse’s doorbell early on Thursday morning, her daughter told them with weary resignation that Andrea had taken all her clothes off and peed everywhere.
Williams and Hubbard coaxed Andrea to put on some clothes and talked to her for an hour. They project a feeling of expansive leisure in these encounters, listening patiently to her stories about her youth and letting her flip through a photo album, but returning at regular intervals to the practical matter of whether she wanted to go to the hospital. Eventually, they asked Andrea one last time and she, in a small voice, said, “Yes.” So they brought her to the ER, where a nurse cleaned her up—she had soiled her outfit and shoes on the ride over—and set her up in a bed for the night. Andrea turned to Hubbard and said, “Can I say I’m going to die?” and started softly crying.
Three days later, I found myself at Andrea’s house again, with two other responders, watching her flip through the same photo album. It was clear this time that she just wanted to talk to someone that night and once she called CAHOOTS, they were obliged to respond. Cakebread and Simone Tessler, the responders on call, indulged her for a while. Cakebread politely but firmly asked her if they could take any practical measures.
“What can we do to make your night more enjoyable?” he asked her.
“Well, you’re doing it now,” Andrea said, in a girlish voice. “You have smiling eyes.”
When it became apparent that she didn’t want any concrete action on her behalf this time, the responders said their goodbyes and left.
The constricted time frame for interventions permitted by CAHOOTS protocol can be applied quite severely. On one daytime shift I attended with Parrish and Summer Johnson, a twenty-year-old boy facing eviction the next day was looking for a place to sleep for two nights until he could get on a bus to his hometown in Ohio. Parrish listened attentively to his plight, but they couldn’t book him a bed in any shelter that far in advance, so they told him to call the hotline back tomorrow. In fact, Parrish would be on the same shift the following day and would likely be the responder again, but CAHOOTS’s rules permit only a response to a present crisis, as opposed to something that involves plans and forward arrangements. “We meet people where they are,” said Cakebread, summoning the CAHOOTS refrain to give me another example, “so we will treat a lot of cuts and wounds arising from domestic violence in people who want to stay in their relationship.” They would not, he said, try to counsel anyone to leave such a relationship outright.
Not everyone can work within these stringent methodological constraints. Between 30 and 60 percent of new EMTS don’t complete the induction, Cakebread told me. And as dedicated as those crisis workers who complete the training are, they all made clear to me that many outcomes of their efforts are only as good as the patchwork of social services available to their clients in Eugene—for example, other staffed services like the Hourglass Community Crisis Center, a 24/7 facility with counselors on call, where people in a tough situation can stay for up to twenty-three hours. CAHOOTS’s parent organization, White Bird, also offers a broad suite of more long-term social services, from housing assistance to dentistry, at its three outposts. But the responders’ options for cases involving high or inebriated clients, for instance, have shrunk when just a single “sobering center” shuttered in March due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Tim Black said that the pandemic also compounded the chronic health problems that often manifest as CAHOOTS emergency calls: “Many people [especially unhoused people, who often don’t have reliable access to cell phones or laptops] couldn’t figure out telemedicine, and chronic medical conditions had a chance to kind of ferment.”
On top of that, Eugene has the highest per capita homeless population in the US and, anecdotally, the number of unhoused people living there has increased even more since the pandemic started. With a chronic shortage of beds in the handful of shelters in town, there’s little prospect of a more comprehensive, longer-term solution.
It’s clear that a CAHOOTS response is more appropriate to the immediate needs of these clients than one by an armed policeman. What is less obvious is the logical next step for clients at the receiving end of multiple “emergency” visits.
“There will always be a need for a crisis response team in a given city, but it’s not really going to solve long-term problems,” said Daniel Herman, a professor at Hunter College’s Silberman School of Social Work. “I think this is comparable to some of the challenges faced in healthcare, when you think about what can be done in an emergency room…. People often see ‘regulars’ in the ER and have to treat them every time, even if the reason they’re coming is due to a chronic condition.”
Herman, who is in his sixties and has worked on mental health and crisis interventions for four decades, said that, in thinking through the structural problems underlying crisis responses, “most people in my field would probably start with adequate housing.” (This is sometimes referred to as a “housing first” approach.) “As long as the US is a place where we believe that housing isn’t a basic right, these other problems will be there, unfortunately,” he concluded.
More than a hundred people a month become “newly homeless” in Lane County, which includes Eugene, according to one 2018 report, but there are still only a handful of shelters. In March, near the beginning of the pandemic, the Oregon statehouse voted down funding for a new, seventy-five-bed shelter in Eugene. The city still intends to build one, but there is no definite timeline for that as of now. This disjunction between an escalating long-term crisis and slow-moving, limited social services has put CAHOOTS, by default, in the position of bridging this unmet demand for help.
Beyond the CAHOOTS model, “housing-first programs, peer support, supported employment and education, and easy and timely access to health services” should all be a part of a region’s “public health mandate,” said Amy Watson, a social work professor at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee. These are, in fact, part of the White Bird Clinic’s agenda, so the problems are ones of scale, funding, and political will. But absent this far more comprehensive mandate, these problems would exist with or without the crisis responders, as Larsen said in Olympia, “so we have a choice how to respond at every step.”
And just the first step of outreach is not the least. In Olympia, I met Larry Jefferson, a Black public defender, who lost his son Jandon, aged twenty-three, to an overdose in June. Jandon had struggled at school and was then homeless for five years. “He went through so many psych wards, but I just couldn’t help him,” Jefferson told me. In early 2020, Jefferson had been contacted by one of Olympia’s crisis responders, who asked him, very simply, what Jandon’s favorite snacks were. “Goldfish crackers,” Jefferson replied instantly. For the next six months, Jefferson knew that responders were checking in on Jandon, who stabilized to a point where he was communicating with his family again. Even though that intervention could not save him from overdosing, “we wouldn’t have had those last six months with him without this crisis team,” said Jefferson, his voice cracking. “We had our best Mother’s Day in ten years.”
In his job, Jefferson works closely with incarcerated people and is no stranger to the shortcomings of law enforcement. “I think Olympia Police Department has the same problems as every other PD—but it also has this,” he said, of the crisis responders. “Gosh, I just love that van.”
For the first time since the COVID-19 response started earlier this year, Lane County has increased the local alert level to high. This means there are increased cases and spread in our community, local healthcare facilities are stressed but still have some room, and most importantly, we must all take measures to limit contact and modify everyday activities to reduce exposure.
The number of COVID-19 cases in Lane County has grown at an alarming rate since early September. According to Lane County Public Health, we are on an upward trajectory that could have exponential growth over the coming weeks.
“This should serve as a reality check and wakeup call for people in Eugene and throughout Lane County,” Mayor Lucy Vinis said. “If we don’t recommit to drastic measures now – things like limiting our interactions with others, wearing a mask, practicing physical distancing, staying home when we’re sick and washing our hands – this virus could devastate our community. Our neighbors, friends and family could get sick, need to go to the hospital and in some cases – even die.”
According to Lane County Public Health, social gatherings have been the biggest driver of increased cases, especially among people ages 17-28. There have been seven recent outbreaks among this age group. Some of the people at those outbreaks contacted a large number of people after contracting the virus. It is important to understand that young people can and do get the virus, and can then spread it to even more vulnerable populations without knowing it.
“This is a community-driven virus and we all need to look at our own actions and behaviors, regardless of age,” Incident Commander of Eugene’s response Chris Heppel said. “We don’t live in vacuums, we’re all connected in some way. We need to evaluate when and how we’re having those social interactions. If they’re not necessary at this point, it’s probably best to hold off.”
Lane County Public Health is expecting this uptick to last for at least three to four weeks, longer if people don’t modify their behaviors. We urge you to please think about your actions over the coming weeks and make sure you’re practicing the four Ws:
Wear a face covering – indoors and outside when you can’t maintain 6 feet of space, it’s a statewide requirement
Watch your distance – stay 6-feet apart from those outside your household and limit your gathering size
Wash your hands – often with soap and water for 20 seconds throughout the day
Wait it out – stay home if you are sick
Asflu shotsbecome available this season, please utilize this public health tool. Preventing flu cases helps COVID-19 efforts in our community by decreasing the strain on our healthcare resources.
Answer the Call – Contact Tracing is Important to Stop the Spread
If you get a call or voicemail from a Public Health contact tracer, please answer or return the call. Contact tracing is critical to our community’s ability to continue limiting the spread of COVID-19. People who participate in contact tracing are actively helping to keep their community safe by helping public health officials track the virus. For more information from Lane County Public Health on contact tracing please visit their contact tracing webpage. The State of Oregon’s contact tracing web page also offers useful information and resources.
See a list of Community Resources for physical and mental health, food, housing, businesses, employees, schools and children, as well as information in Spanish.
Also learn how you can help. Our partners have a significant amount of information available online. Please visit these resources for the most up to date information:
The Red Cross is looking for volunteers in our area to support the wildfire disaster response. Currently the Red Cross is seeking volunteers to take shifts helping with feeding activities and providing support at our various shelter locations. Shifts will be anywhere from 2-6 hours, and will be happening daily. There is no required commitment to number of shifts, so even if someone can fill only one shift, we can use their help. The Red Cross will provide training on-site to volunteers, so anyone 18+ is welcome to participate and will not need previous disaster experience for these roles. If you could please share this with anyone interested in helping those effected by the wildfires.
How to Volunteer:
If you are interested in helping, the first step is to use the link below to create an application in our Volunteer Connection system. You will use Volunteer Connection to take trainings, sign up for shifts and stay looped in to our ongoing needs during our local responses. Click the link and fill out the form on the right-hand side that says, “Create Red Cross ID.”
If the system says your email is already registered in the system, use the “Forgot Password” link to set a password. Then click this sign up link again, but this time, log-in on the left hand side with your email/password and that should start the application.
Once your application is created, you’ll be guided to take a few online trainings and have access to our volunteer shift listings in your area. The volunteer needs during a disaster are ever changing, so if you don’t see something available in your area now, that could change very quickly. Please keep an eye out for email communication from the Red Cross to stay up to date with our volunteer needs.
Please let me know if you have any questions about the application process. Thank you again for your support. Take care.
Sam Haffey Senior Recruitment Specialist American Red Cross Cascades Region 3131 N Vancouver Ave. Portland, OR 97227 (541) 414-7576 email@example.com
Are you willing to help fellow Oregonians who are victims of Oregon’s fires?
Here is how you can help:
If you are willing to homeshare with a person or persons displaced by the fires, and have not already done so, please visit https://info.silvernest.com/hso to set up your free homesharing profile and rental listing and start matching with compatible renters. Once you find your match, they move in, and you start collecting rent, insurance coverage will also kick in on the day of the first rent payment. Sign up at the link above to get your service for free.
Tips for helping your community:
In the “All About You” section of your profile, make sure to note that you’re interested in helping someone impacted by the fires. Consider saying something like, “I’m looking to help someone displaced by fire with a place to stay for X weeks/months.”
Note: “All About You” is an optional question, so don’t skip it!
We encourage you to allow your housemate to stay for at least 90 days. This will allow time for them to access fire insurance, benefits and support services and to find a suitable long-term place to live.
Consider setting a rental rate as low as you can accommodate for this time. Consider the value of the utilities and supplies relative to your income when setting your rate.
Your space doesn’t have to be perfect! List the space you have to offer and share pictures of the home so that people can decide if your place is a good fit for them.
Please consider allowing children accompanied by a parent or guardian to stay in your home. A household environment is the best scenario for children, versus a shelter.
Thank you for your interest in supporting our community. We appreciate you!
More than 100 fires are burning in the western U.S. and over 4,350,558 acres have burned so far (1). More than 500,000 people in Oregon were under evacuation orders, as unprecedented acres of wildfires race across forests, as of September 10th (2). Climate change has been a key factor in increasing the risk and extent of wildfires in the Western United States. The risk of wildfire depends on a factors such as temperature, soil moisture, and the presence of trees, shrubs, and other fuels. These factors have strong ties to climate change. (3)
I live with my family on a ridge in the Southwest Hills Neighborhood of Eugene, surrounded by acres of forests. We are privileged to live here, we love the trees and wildlife, but it comes with an emotional cost for me. I dread the potential for wildfires every summer, until the rains begin in earnest.
A year and a half ago I confronted my fear and contacted a Fire Suppression Coordinator with the Oregon Department of Forestry, and asked him to speak to a group of neighbors. He accepted and did an excellent job of explaining fire behavior, and the importance of maintaining the area around our homes to reduce the risk of fire, to a group of about 14. He recommended the Firewise USA program as a good educational program (4). The good news is that management of one’s home and yard can really reduce the risk of one’s house burning down.
This program suggests to start with making one’s house less flammable (remove flammable material from roof, gutters, and more), and managing vegetation in the zone within 5 feet of your home, then working outward. Both the house and the landscape adjacent to it play a critical role in structures surviving a wildfire (5).
To maintain a defensible space (the area between a house and an oncoming wildfire, where the vegetation has been modified to reduce the wildfire threat) around one’s home, it starts with “fuel ladders.” The term fuel ladder refers to live and dead vegetation which can allow fire to climb from ground-level vegetation into the tree canopy (6). Most wildfires will not reach the crown of a tree if the vertical fuel is not continuous. When fire climbs a fuel ladder and reaches the crown of a tree it gains heat intensity and can more easily ignite surrounding vegetation and structures. Removing ladder fuel involves pruning the lower branches on trees, and trimming or removing vegetation growing under trees. (7)
Wider spacing of trees can also reduce the intensity of a fire (7) and can also reduce plant competition for soil moisture and nutrients, allowing trees and other vegetation to remain healthier with increasing temperatures and drought (8). Other important management actions, which can decrease fire risk, include trimming weeds and grass next to roads before the vegetation dries out, and avoiding the use of power tools with metal blades on dry vegetation during the fire season (9).
Since learning more about reducing our fire risk, my husband and I hired an arborist to remove and prune trees, and have spent hours removing fuel ladders, reducing the density of trees and shrubs, and mowing grass and forbs. We still have work to do before we feel that we’ve managed our fire risk at a level we are comfortable with. We have observed that several of the neighbors who attended this talk have also worked to reduce their property’s fire risk.
Also consider reducing your carbon emissions, to slow the heating of our planet. Both efforts, reducing our neighborhood wildfire risk and moving into a fossil fuel free future, require strong community efforts. We’re all in this together.
Food for Lane County is holding a Food Drive to support the many folks who have lost everything due to the fires. Providing access to food is one way you and the broader community can help. Please consider sending a check to Food for Lane County, 770 Bailey Hill Road, Eugene, OR 97402. Your donation will be doubled by a matching donation from an anonymous donor. All donations up to $100,000 received before September 30, 2020 will be matched by a generous anonymous donor.
Food donations can be taken to the Food for Lane County Bailey Hill location or to the West Broadway Warehouse at 2345 West Broadway, which is open from Monday through Thursday from 12:00 to 3:00 PM. Food donations can also be dropped off at all Goodwill locations.
Residents who are affected by the McKenzie/Holiday Farm Fire who have inquiries may call Lane County’s non-emergency call center at 541-682-3977 between the hours of 7:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m.After-hours calls will be transferred to the Sheriff’s Office non-emergency phone line.
Lane Community College is currently closed to all except Public Safety, but students and staff displaced by fire with a vehicle can call Public Safety at 541-463-5558 to be provided with a safe place to park and stay in their vehicle, with access to water, wifi, and restrooms. The University of Oregon will provide showers and temporary housing for UO employees and students. If you are a university employee or student in need of such assistance, go to https://around.uoregon.edu/content/president-calls-resilience-face-fires-pandemic to complete a web form.
Center for Community Counseling has geared up to provide short term counseling for those impacted by the wildfires. They will waive the fees for these sessions. People needing support can call them at 541-344-0620 or visit www.ccc.eugene.org
White Bird Clinic’s 24/7 Crisis Services program is available 24/7 for all Lane County residents. Trained counselors have a deep ability to empathize with clients, as well as extensive knowledge of local resources that are appropriate to provide ongoing care. https://whitebirdclinic.org/crisis
Bloodworks Northwest is hosting a Pop-Up Blood Drive at the Holiday Inn Express in Springfield (919 Kruse Way). Appointments and masks required. Make an appointment online or call 800-398-7888.
Blue River’s upper McKenzie Fire Chief Rainbow Fundraiser: Chief Christiana Rainbow Plews is the Fire Chief of the Upper McKenzie Rural Fire Protection District near Blue River, Oregon where the Holiday Farm Fire has been rearing its incredible and ugly head this week. Rainbow and half a dozen of her district volunteers, had their own homes burn to the ground while they were out saving lives and mitigating damage from the fire. They lost everything. Rainbow made the call to raise the evacuation level early so that the citizens in her jurisdiction had time to get out safely.
Cottage Grove Community Center is accepting donations by appointment only 541-942-1185
Holiday Farm Fire Supply Site is receiving in-kind donations in person at 2699 Roosevelt Blvd, Eugene, OR 97402. Hours 10am-4pm
Lane COAD: Register your organization to assist with recovery efforts, request help from a broad array of community organizations at https://lane.recovers.org/ or volunteer time or talents.
LoveFirst Evacuation Recovery Center is set up at the Masonic Lodge in Eugene at 2777 Martin Luther King Jr, Blvd is providing mutual aid to impacted community members. Details posted to Facebook page.
Lane County Mutual Aid is holding a Supply Drive (masks, especially N95’s, PPE like gloves, diapers, toothbrushes and toothpaste, sanitizer, menstrual products and soap. Drop offs accepted M-F 9am-12pm at the NAACP Office 330 High St. Call or text Lane County Mutual aid 541-690-8107 for after hour drop off coordination.
United Way’s Wildfire Response Fund: Your gift to this emergency fund provides immediate assistance to local nonprofits meeting the needs of families and individuals who have lost their homes, their businesses, or have been otherwise impacted by the 2020 fires in Lane County.
If you would like to volunteer your time to help victims of the Holiday Farm Fire, a new site has opened. https://t.co/ScROJvyy3y
The temporary evacuation sites have been transitioned to being offered by telephone. The Red Cross is available to offer resources to those who have been impacted by the Holiday Farm Fires. For Red Cross resources, please call 1-888-680-1455 or 1-503-284-1234.
Some of Food for Lane County’s operations are experiencing temporary modification. The pantry in McKenzie Bridge and Marcola are both closed. For community members who need pantry services, please review the lists at https://foodforlanecounty.org/find-a-food-pantry and contact the pantry you wish to visit ahead of time to verify service hours.
SNAP: If you have lost your food due to the wildfires, you can have up to $200 of your SNAP benefits reloaded onto your card. Folks in this situation should contact the local ODHS office and fill out a short form stating what food they lost and how they were impacted by the fires. You don’t need to go to “your” ODHS office, you can just go to the one closest to you if you have been evacuated. Oregon Department of Human Services local offices are also helping to coordinate basic needs for all evacuees, such as food boxes, whether you receive SNAP benefits or not. https://www.oregon.gov/dhs/Offices/Pages/Self-Sufficiency.aspx
Rather than establishing a separate relief fund, the Oregon Community Foundation is providing information (including links to the various United Ways in impacted communities) on its website about which organizations are supporting wildfire relief efforts to get resources to communities as quickly as possible.
MRG Foundation continues funding organizations and efforts that are focused on BIPOC, Immigrant, Tribal communities, and social/racial justice organizations, MRG Foundation is holding wildfire relief funds that focus on equity.
Occupy Medical staff have been doing rounds for people put in hotels by Red Cross or flagged with need.
PeaceHealth clinics in the Eugene-Springfield area are open regular hours again.
Pacific Source Members: Resources and supports that address basic needs (e.g., shelter, air purifiers, food, clothing, and transportation) may be available, call 888-970-2507.
White Bird Medical Clinic: Offering appointments by telehealth and providing limited onsite care for patients without computer or smartphone access.
Lane County put out a communication saying “Rumors that Red Cross is running out of sheltering options for Holiday Farm Fire evacuees are not true. Evacuees in need of a place to stay can call 541-214-4999. If you are an evacuee and have other needs beyond sheltering that Red Cross can help with call 1-800-733-2767.”
Daytime smoke respite shelters are available in Eugene, Creswell, Cottage Grove, Coburg, and Junction City at the locations listed below for individuals who need a reprieve from the wildfire smoke and unhealthy air quality. The temporary evacuation sites have been transitioned to being offered by telephone. The Red Cross is available to offer shelter to those who have been impacted by the Holiday Farm Fires, call 1-503-284-1234. For other Red Cross resources, call 1-888-680-1455 or
Lane Events Center (796 W. 13th Ave., Eugene) 8am-8pm
White Bird is offering 24/7 referrals to the center for smoke respite shelter (very limited space available) and access to sleeping mat and bedding, water, meals, bathrooms, fresh air (tested by local gov’t!), 24-hour ability to come and go. Contact 541-687-4000 / 1-800-422-7558 for information.
New Hope Baptist Church, 597 S. Front St., Creswell. (541) 895-4436 24/7, call first!
Coburg City Hall (91136 N. Willamette St., Coburg) 8am-8pm
Junction City King’s Grace Fellowship (48 18th Avenue, Junction City) Call ahead to Pastor Sara Eads to confirm space (541-514-9298).
Fern Ridge High School (8834 Territorial Hwy, Elmira) has RV parking, water, WiFi, restrooms and showers
City of Destiny Church parking lot located at 2065 Centennial Blvd is now open for EVACUEES RV’s only. They can not house the previously-unhoused-before-this-event population due to not having permits from St. Vincent D’Paul at this time– they MUST be the fire evacuees. Contact 458-201-8590 for details.
North West Eugene – Space with Lights, 3 portable restrooms, access to EWEB hose connection. Space for up to 50 RV’s. Call Jordan (541) 321-3654.
Veneta – Space with no utilities, must be self-contained. Animals if friendly and controlled (goats and other animals on the site). Call Con at (541) 729-7498. Evacuee’s only.
The Cottage Grove Masonic Hall (33322 Row River Road) is also open for those who have been evacuated. They have space for additional recreational vehicles. There are restrooms, showers and a laundry facility. Please call Eston Wicks (541-968-3829) before arriving to confirm space availability.
United Way has recently set up a network of “Lane Volunteer Responders” – people able to volunteer time and/or provide in-kind donations to nonprofits in need. Sign up at https://www.volunteeruwlane.org/responder
Cleaning up the ash from our homes, yards, businesses and streets will eventually help clean our air and our community, but it must be done safely. Smoke and ash can be harmful to your health and the health of those around you. The greatest risk is from fine particles that are not visible. The information below is for residents and businesses who are cleaning up ash, not those cleaning up burned structures. If you lost your home or business to the fire, you need to take additional precautions.
When you determine it is safe to clean up, Protect Yourself and remember these three Cs:
Avoid cleaning up ash until conditions improve and it’s safe to be outdoors. Decisions about when to clean should be based on the level of fine particles and the air. Check today’s air quality.
No one with heart or lung conditions should handle ash clean-up. If you have symptoms that may be related to exposure to smoke or soot, stop cleaning and consult your doctor. Symptoms include repeated coughing, shortness of breath, or difficulty breathing, wheezing, chest tightness or pain, palpitations, headaches and nausea or unusual fatigue or light headedness.
Use a N-95 or P-100 particulate respirator mask. Inhaled ash may be irritating to the nose, throat and lungs. Choose a mask with two straps and make sure it fits snugly around your nose and chin. Surgical masks, bandanas and other paper masks do not protect your lungs from the fine particles that are of greatest concern.
Avoid skin contact with ash. Wear long sleeves, long pants, closed shoes and gloves. Although ash from organic materials like trees and brush is not harmful to the skin, this precautionary measure will protect you from irritation and harm from other types of ash.
Protect yourself when others are cleaning around you. Cars driving on the street can stir up ash, so cleaning ash from the streets will help avoid future impacts. City street sweepers have vacuums with filters and contain more ash than they stir up. Leave the area or go inside if the cleaning efforts of your neighbors are impacting you.
Thoroughly wash fruit and vegetables from your garden before eating. Do not consume any food, beverages or medications that have been exposed to significant smoke, ash, heat, pressure, or chemicals.
Clean ash off house pets.
Try to control the amount of ash particles that get re-suspended into the air.
DO NOT USE LEAF BLOWERS to clean up ash. Leaf blowers re-suspend harmful fine particles into the air and create more health concerns.
Use only household vacuums or shop vacuums with HEPA filters. Standard household and shop vacuums re-suspend harmful fine particles and create more health concerns.
Do not allow children to play in ash. Wash ash off toys before children play with them and do not allow children to be in areas where ash-covered materials are being disturbed.
Use appropriate cleaning methods for the task at hand.
Sweep gently with a push broom, then mop with a damp cloth or hose lightly with water. Take care to conserve water. You may allow water to drain into landscaping as ash will not hurt plants or grass.
Scrape ash and debris into plastic bags and dispose in the regular trash. Closed bags or containers will keep the ash from being released during collection.
Commercial cleaning may be needed for carpet, upholstery, and window treatments.
Ash has a high pH and, in large amounts, can be harmful for people, the environment and aquatic life.
Protect storm drains from ash and cleaning chemicals. Avoid washing ash into storm drains whenever possible. Divert water away from storm drains or try to filter the wash water with gravel bags, filter fabric, fiber rolls, etc., in front of storm drains. Scoop up captured ash and debris and dispose of appropriately.
Life is stressful for people in Oregon right now with COVID-19. We’ve adapted our lives to cope with the disease, and now we are faced with wildfires and dangerous smoke as well.
Helping is not only a great way to contribute to the community, but it also helps us feel like we can make a difference. People in Oregon are stepping up. Folks are adding displaced chickens to their urban chicken coops, passing on extra filters and fans to make air purifiers and donating food and clothes to evacuation shelters.
If you are considering monetary donations, a guide to safe giving is available at this link.
Here are some other ways you can help:
Paid leave available for COVID-19 quarantine or isolation
Do you have to quarantine or isolate because of COVID-19 but don’t have paid time off?
A new program starts this week to help people who work in Oregon and need to quarantine or isolate due to COVID-19 exposure, but do not have access to COVID-19-related paid sick leave.
The COVID-19 Temporary Paid Leave Program was created with $30 million received from the federal government to help Oregon respond to the coronavirus pandemic.
People who qualify will receive a $120 per-day payment for up to 10 working days ($1,200 total) for the time they are required quarantine.
The application form is available in English, Spanish, and Russian. Those who do not have access to electronic applications can call 833-685-0850 (toll-free) or 503-947-0130. Those who need help in a language other than these three can call 503-947-0131 for help.
The Department of Consumer and Business Services (DCBS) and the Department of Revenue are collaborating on the new program to ensure employees meet the necessary eligibility requirements. To see if you meet them, take this eligibility quiz, or see the requirements on the DCBS site.
Because the available funds are limited, the program is available only to quarantine periods that were in place on or after Sept. 16. Applicants can claim only one quarantine period.
OHA announces new COVID-19 wastewater monitoring project
OHA today announced it had launched a statewide COVID-19 wastewater monitoring project to study the presence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in more than 40 small- to medium-sized communities around the state. The project, which will include weekly wastewater testing over the next 30 months, will enable epidemiologists to better understand the circulation of COVID-19 in some of Oregon’s communities. It will serve as an “early warning” system to tell if COVID-19 is spreading silently in communities.
“This program holds promise to help us monitor COVID-19 in our communities,” said Melissa Sutton MD, MPH, Medical Director for Respiratory Viral Pathogens at OHA and a principal investigator for the wastewater study. “We look forward to our partnership with local communities and researchers. Together we hope to better understand the spread of COVID-19 in Oregon.”
Much of the work will be carried out by Oregon State University researchers, along with local partners. Funding for this program comes from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).