Warming center proposed for Lane

Mary Binford spreads the ashes of Michael Briggs at his  campsite on the west side hills of campus on Thursday, Dec. 11. Photo by: August Frank

Mary Binford spreads the ashes of Michael Briggs at his campsite on the west side hills of campus on Thursday, Dec. 11.
Photo by: August Frank

Penny Scott

The Briggs Warming Center, named in memory of recently deceased houseless student Michael Briggs, may soon offer temporary housing for Lane’s houseless students when temperatures drop below 30 degrees.

“LCC’s notion of a warming center would include a dinner and breakfast, bedding and a place to sleep,” Associated Students of Lane Community College chief-of-staff Robert Schumacher said addressing the Board of Education on Dec. 10.

Also speaking to the board in support of the center were Public Safety Chief Jace Smith and Oregon Student Public Interest and Research Group chair Anthony Molinari.

The idea for the center was originally introduced by Smith who said that his officers encounter students seeking shelter in cars, buildings, the baseball dugout and in the woods around campus. He said that because there is no provision for them to stay, Public Safety officers are compelled to ask them to leave.

Smith stressed the need to act quickly on the matter. He said that by acting before the season is over the center could make a real difference to students, adding that for learning, student success and safety, lack of housing is the biggest impediment.

Both ASLCC and OSPIRG have passed resolutions in favor of the warming center. Smith said that he has weighed the risk factors against the benefits and has gained support from local charitable organizations, including The Egan Warming Center.

The Egan website describes the center as a coalition of community members representing service providers, nonprofits, faith and social activist communities and local government who have come together since 2008 to ensure that homeless people have shelter during extreme cold weather.

Molinari commented that Briggs was an exemplary member of the Lane campus community. During Schumacher’s emotional statement to the board, he said that Briggs touched the lives of thousands and was a close friend.

A memorial service was held for Briggs on Dec. 11. Approximately 15 students walked from Building 1 to Briggs’ campsite in the woods west of campus where his ashes were scattered.

At the Board of Education meeting on Jan. 14, Brian Kelly, Vice President for College Services, said that currently the locations under consideration for the center are Building 5, the Longhouse and the Center for Meeting and Learning.

During the ensuing discussion, the possibility of providing transport to Egan Warming Center for houseless students, instead of housing them on campus was offered as an alternative solution.

If a center does open on campus, Egan would provide volunteers, food and other necessities for the operation of the center. Lane would provide the space.

The board passed a motion authorizing the college administration to respond in the best way possible. Pat Albright added that the situation should be treated as an emergency to ensure help for houseless students before the next freeze.