Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, the Beaverton Severe Weather Shelter (BSWS) has expanded operations and increased services for people experiencing homelessness while marking its fifth season of being open in the winter in Beaverton. As the city looks at what the next five years will hold, plans for permanent and ongoing shelter for people experiencing homelessness is a priority, ensuring not only that no one dies from exposure to the elements due to lack of housing in Beaverton during the winter, but also that they can get connected to resources and housing at the same time.
The BSWS opened in January 2017 after staff identified it as an immediate response to a rise in homelessness in Beaverton. The city contracted with Just Compassion of East Washington County to provide the operations of the shelter at the Beaverton Community Center. It was part of a network of six other shelters in Washington County, and open one day a week in addition to weekends when temperatures dropped below freezing from November through March each year. The shelter was first come, first served for 30 people, and supported by one paid staff member and a host of incredible volunteers
With public facilities closed during COVID-19 and governor’s orders to shelter in place, the shelter expanded to provide 24/7 service to guests from March through May 2020. During this time, the shelter switched to a fully paid staff and enrollment-based services; and added additional services such as housing navigation, showers, and pandemic precautions including masks, social distancing, and hand sanitizing. This new model was more trauma-informed, allowing greater stability for guests, and increased the capacity for case management with deeper and more meaningful relationships that can result in housing. Building off the learnings of spring 2020, this new 24/7 enhanced service model was continued when the shelter reopened for the current season last November
A planned development at the Beaverton Community Center will result in relocating the shelter moving forward. The new location will need to be Americans with Disabilities Act accessible; include space for at least 30 guests for sleeping, dining and storage; have some kitchen facilities; be accessible to transit and local services; include parking for guests/staff; and have the ability to provide showers. While the shelter is just one response to the issue of homelessness in Beaverton, it is an essential service that the community has called for repeatedly in the Community Vision and the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Plan—one that requires robust continued support on a year-round basis.
For ongoing updates about the BSWS, visit www.BeavertonOregon.gov/shelter.