1/8/2019 10:34:00 AM Man hurt himself outside shelter
By Jim Cornelius
One of the guests at the Sisters Cold Weather Shelter harmed himself after leaving the shelter at Westside Church on Saturday morning, January 5. The incident sparked concern from nearby residents and a response from organizers of the shelter, which provides shelter to homeless people in Sisters during the winter months.
"A male guest had spent the night and followed the shelter rules and behavior expectations, Sisters Cold Weather Shelter Steering Committee Chair Gary Eidsmoe wrote in a Facebook posting addressing the incident. "After leaving, we assume he suffered a breakdown. His act of self-harm was seen by a neighbor, another shelter guest, and a monitor, who thankfully called law enforcement and medical assistance. The situation was brought under control quickly and safely thanks to the trained response of our local professionals. The man will recover from his physical injuries and has received treatment. No other person was harmed or in danger."
Eidsmoe later told The Nugget that this is the only incident of this level of seriousness that has occurred in relation to the shelter since its inception two years ago, and that there had been no prior indications from the man that a serious incident was imminent.
"He didn't show any sign that he was going to do anything like this," he said. "Nobody saw this coming."
The shelter generally houses six to 10 people overnight during the winter, rotating among three locations through the cold months. The shelter is located at Westside Church through January, and will move to the Episcopal Church of the Transfiguration next month, Eidsmoe said.
The location of the shelter near residential areas has drawn some concern from neighbors, and Saturday's incident was reported in some heated comments - apparently since removed - on Facebook.
In his posting and his conversation with The Nugget, Eidsmoe said that the volunteer staff who operate the shelter have a good handle on activities there.
"The steering committee spent time last summer reviewing our policies, procedures, and expectations," Eidsmoe reported. "Guests sign a code of conduct when they first enter the shelter. Each guest is monitored on behavior and how they interact with others. Violations are dealt with quickly and people are asked to leave for a few days or the entire season. Volunteers and staff are trained to call the sheriff whenever there is a doubt about any situation."
Eidsmoe said that the guest who harmed himself will not be welcomed back to the shelter.
Asked if the incident would prompt any further review or alteration in policies and protocols, Eidsmoe told The Nugget that the staff may start asking to search backpacks of guests. He said that there is an "honor system" in place currently. Guests are asked if they have knives or other objects that could be a weapon, and these are turned over and locked up for the night.
"We kind of respect their privacy right now," he said.
Asked if he was concerned that searches might keep those in need away, Eidsmoe emphasized that they would be voluntary and he believes guests would willingly comply.
Eidsmoe noted that the Sisters Cold Weather Shelter Steering Committee plans to hold "a community meeting where concerns and ideas can be shared."
Eidsmoe also noted that anyone interested in learning more about how the shelter operates is welcome to come and observe. Eidsmoe can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.