EDITOR’S NOTE: Due to the unsafe winter weather conditions, CARE has postponed portions of the “Longest Night” event. A candlelight vigil will be held at First Christian Church and the Warming Center opened for all who need shelter tomorrow night December 21, 2022.
By Michael Randall
Strong winter winds and heavy rain have arrived, and temperatures are turning colder. Night time temperatures are forecast to be below freezing for the next week. Did you know that in the first half of 2022, deaths among homeless people in Oregon totaled 207? How much will the full death toll for 2022 be at the end of this month?
On the first day of winter, December 21, our local human service agency, CARE, Inc., will rally all of us to provide greater support for our growing homeless population. That night marks the Winter Solstice (the longest night of 2022), CARE staff and other people from the community will gather at 7:30 a candlelight vigil will be held to memorialize the many people who have died while experiencing homelessness.
That same night, CARE’s “Warming Center” will open at First Christian Church, 2203 4th Street, to provide our unsheltered neighbors a warm, dry place to sleep, plus some food. More volunteers are needed to help at the Warming Center.
Before the pandemic, I occasionally volunteered there. Late one cold night, a young woman came in and registered. She told me three men were hunkered down a few blocks away, sheltering behind a wall from the winter wind. I went out and found two of them sitting under an overhang wrapped in their sleeping bags.
The third man had no sleeping bag, only a jacket. Zipped inside his jacket, wrapped in a bath towel, was a small dog. The man planned to spend the night there, and his priority was keeping his little dog warm. The three did not know about the Warming Center just a few blocks away, but all of them came inside to the warmth and a sleeping pad, to blankets and hot soup.
Housing is in desperately short supply in Tillamook County and throughout the United States. CARE provides help to our neighbors who find themselves in dangerous situations related to housing. The agency can:  pay a portion of the rent owed by people who have received eviction notices;  pay a portion of one month rent or part of move-in costs at a new rental;  provide short term rental assistance to veterans and their families who are presently unsheltered or at risk of eviction;  provide re-housing help to those who are homeless;  offer supportive housing to those with disabilities, including mental illness, who are chronically homeless.
Each of these programs has certain requirements, and funds are limited. A meeting with one of CARE’s Housing Case Managers is necessary to get on the list to be helped.
In CARE’s most recent yearly report, it helped 1,608 people, 954 households, 382 children, 89 veterans. Energy assistance was provided to 712 folks, and 146 were helped into stable housing.
Do you have the means to make a gift to help CARE’s housing programs? Or can you volunteer for a few hours at the Warming Center? Come in to CARE’s office at 2310 1st Street in Tillamook and sign up. We are urged to love our neighbors. Now, in this season of long cold nights, love is needed most.