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'It gives me a lot of hope': Arbor Lodge winter shelter helps people into permanent housing

With temperatures dropping near freezing, local nonprofits are helping people get out of the cold while thinking of their futures.

PORTLAND, Oregon — Four days ago, Lonnie Bearcub Rogers was living in his car after falling on hard times. As temperatures dipped near freezing, he said conditions were extremely difficult.

“It was so cold that I was crunched up in the backseat of my car and I'm just saying, I gotta do this,” said Rogers, 56. Not wanting to fall further into despair or danger, Rogers made his way to the Arbor Lodge winter shelter at 7440 North Denver Avenue in Portland. 

“I want to get clean all the way but I've been through so many programs that I'm a chronic relapser,” shared Rogers. “I get going real well and then something stops me; a death or COVID really took it from me.”

Shelter organizers can only hope word of Arbor Lodge spreads to others like Rogers, as harsher winter conditions loom.

“That's the point of these shelters, to keep people safe, warm and alive,” said Kevin Shofner with Do Good Multnomah. The nonprofit, along with the city of Portland, Multnomah County and Metro, opened the Arbor Lodge shelter on Nov. 19. It's one of several shelters funded in part by Metro's $2.4 billion Supportive Housing Measure

RELATED: Cold weather shelter opens in North Portland's Arbor Lodge neighborhood

“We want people to know what we're doing, know that we're here and we want to help!” said Shofner. “We want to get people warm, safe and housed, eventually.”

For the next five months, Arbor Lodge will provide 24-hour-a-day, temporary housing for up to 70 people at a time. Participants will either stay in the main shelter converted out of an old Rite Aid building, or one of the outdoor heated pods designated for the most vulnerable participants in need. To get into the shelter, participants will need a referral which they can get through various housing agencies, or by calling 211. They can also come to the front desk and ask to be placed on the waiting list. Participants will have access to two meals a day and case managers connecting them with services and hopefully permanent housing.

“We now have resources, vouchers to help people get into units and just placement efforts—case managers of permanent supportive housing to help folks stay housed,” said Patricia Rojas, regional housing director for Metro. Rojas said with help from the Supportive Housing Measure, she expects to see an increase of 40 to 50% in year-round shelter space.

“It is beyond heartwarming,” said Rojas. "It is really inspirational and it gives me a lot of hope because this is the beginning of something.” 

RELATED: Multnomah County reports 2,000 houseless youth; former houseless youth talks hope, path to stability

For those who want to help, Arbor Lodge is always accepting donations of money, food, clothing and personal supplies. Their biggest needs are warm clothes, shoes and blankets for both men and women, which can be dropped off at the shelter.

After spending a few days Arbor Lodge, Lonnie Bearcub Rogers has a job interview lined up, and his case manager is already working on getting him permanent housing. In the meantime, Rogers is making every day at the shelter count.

“I really want to set an example,” said Rogers. “I see a couple guys who are in here doing it and giving me hugs and saying, ‘Hey Lonnie, you know you can do it. You know you can.’”