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Lead dust found in Flegel Center, move-in for UCC students delayed

Tests revealed lead dust on the first floor of the Flegel Center, which was scheduled to be used for housing Umpqua Community College students this school year.

“What we are responsible for is our students’ safety,” UCC President Debra Thatcher said in a press release. “And students will not move in until all work is completed.”

Low levels of lead dust were found in two small storage rooms, designated as non-living quarters, according to the college. The rooms where the dust was found have been sealed off and a contractor is working on cleaning the areas. After the cleaning is completed, the areas will be retested, according to a press release.

UCC requested additional safety testing after April Ehrlich, a reporter for Jefferson Public Radio, inquired about the possibility of lead dust contamination at the center. Ehrlich, who previously worked at The News-Review, reported in 2016 that former National Guard armories with indoor firing ranges were at risk for having dangerous levels of lead.

The News-Review asked UCC Athletic Director Craig Jackson during an interview in September about the possibility of lead dust being found in the building. Jackson said at the time all testing had been completed and the building was up to code.

The building was tested for asbestos and lead-based paint per code requirements prior to the college signing a lease.

The owner of the building responded immediately to a request from UCC to perform additional testing, according to a UCC press release. Neither Faith Construction or UCC have responded to requests from The News-Review for test results.

The Oregon Military Department closed indoor firing ranges at Oregon armories in 2014 due to lead dust contamination.

The Flegel Center, which was used as an armory from 1914 until 1977, had a firing range in the basement of the drill hall.

The college, which is leasing the space, is not responsible for the testing or the abatement but has been working closely with the building owner and contractor.

“Safety for our students is our No. 1 priority,” Thatcher said. “The building’s owner and the contractor on this project have been responsive and cooperative throughout the entire process.”

Samples were taken from all three floors of the building, according to UCC’s press release.

“The contractor informed UCC it is not uncommon to find these types of environmental challenges in old buildings, and assured college officials that certified, licensed professionals are being hired to complete the mitigation,” according to the press release.

Lead exposure can cause severe mental and physical impairment. Children are most vulnerable because their brains are still developing. Even low levels of lead in blood can damage a child’s development, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The building was leased by the college to accommodate out-of-town male students. Most of those would be student athletes. who could see cardiovascular problems, increased blood pressure, decreased kidney function and reproductive problems if exposed to toxic levels of lead dust.

Students who were scheduled to move in Tuesday are currently staying with host families.

What would Jesus do? Rescue Mission, Dream Center take different approaches to helping homeless

Although research suggests permanent housing is ultimately the key to solving Roseburg’s homeless problem, obtaining that housing can be difficult or impossible for people who are currently living on the street.

Roseburg has two organizations most often mentioned as the places where homeless people turn for help — the Roseburg Rescue Mission and the Dream Center.

On the surface, they have some similarities. Each has homeless or formerly homeless Roseburg residents who say it has been their salvation. Each organization is faith-based.

Where the two organizations differ is on what they believe their faith calls them to do.


By far the oldest of these organizations, and the one that provides the most comprehensive services, is the mission. It was formed in 1964 by World War II combat veteran Norman Williams.

Director Lynn Antis said the organization’s primary mission is to preach the gospel, with its secondary mission being to provide services to the homeless.

The mission is the only place where most homeless men and women can obtain emergency overnight shelter, though there are shelters that specialize in particular groups of homeless people such as teens or domestic violence victims.

The mission operates two overnight shelters, one downtown for men and a separate shelter called Samaritan Inn that houses women and children.

The men’s shelter was the first, and was opened across the street from what was then the train depot. Today, the mission operates secondhand stores, a day shelter and other buildings that span more than a block.

In Antis’ view, there are two types of people who get labeled homeless. One is the group he said can legitimately be called homeless.

“They simply don’t have a home, and they want a home and they will do what they need to do to get a home,” he said. “They will go into a mission or shelter and they will do what it takes to become independent again.”

The second group, he said, is made up of addicts and people with mental illnesses.

“They won’t come into a shelter. When you look at Roseburg and Douglas County and you see people on the streets and camping down by the river, those are not the people that are homeless. They’re counterculture people with addiction issues,” he said. “Housing isn’t what they’re after at all.”

He said the police are right to cite the campers for littering and other offenses, and he believes creating more housing won’t help homeless people with addictions.

Research on the homeless problem, including a recent study commissioned by the City of Roseburg, doesn’t back Antis’ view. But it is one shared by many local leaders and business owners, and Antis said he believes the Roseburg study was slanted to support preconceived ideas about the homeless.

Antis said people are often surprised to learn that the mission usually has lots of empty beds. There are restrictions on people wanting to stay there. People who are visibly drunk or on drugs are not allowed to stay. And there is mandatory attendance at daily 30-minute religious services.

It won’t help everyone, he said.

“Mankind isn’t going to change. We feel like we’re doing our part. The first thing I said is our purpose in life is evangelism and trying to turn people’s minds and hearts around to get them right, but you can’t reach everybody. It just simply isn’t going to happen,” he said.

He views the Dream Center, which assists all comers regardless of addiction problems and where they’re sleeping at night, as part of the problem.

“There are people and organizations out there that are giving food and clothing and camping equipment out to homeless people. That behavior is part of our problem. If we were to stop feeding the problem, a lot of it would go away. But when you enable people, they have no reason to change their lifestyle,” Antis said.

Christianity isn’t optional, in Antis’ view.

“As a Christian organization, we have a very firm understanding that we were created by God and in his image and he’s got an awesome plan for us, and if a person is outside of that kingdom of God that they can never really fully understand or experience life,” he said.

He views it as his responsibility to share his religion with other people, not to fix them.

“What does matter is that we are doing everything we can to encourage people to come in here, to do what we can when they are here to help them get their lives back on track and then to see them walk out of here independently,” he said.


The Roseburg Dream Center offers food and clothing, but not overnight shelter. It’s a smaller and newer organization than the mission. Like the mission, it’s a faith-based organization. But unlike the mission, it’s open to everyone without preconditions, including addicts, and does not require attendance at religious services.

The Dream Center was started by Sylvia Davis 11 years ago and was based on a Dream Center in Los Angeles that was started by a church in a hospital building.

Initially, the Roseburg Dream Center was a food pantry that also gave away clothing. In November, it opened a four-day-a-week drop-in center on Southeast Lane Avenue, just a couple blocks up the street from the mission men’s shelter.

Director Tim Edmondson estimates there are about 200 people who frequent the Dream Center. Many would have been in state hospitals receiving mental health care when he was a kid, he said. An increasing number walking through his doors are women.

If there were a natural disaster that put several hundred people in the community out of their homes, the state would declare a state of emergency, he said.

Edmondson said many of the people the Dream Center assists are addicts, but not all of them. Either way, once they hit bottom many feel there’s no way up. They lose hope, he said.

“What we do here is we try to love ’em, OK, we try to give ’em a little bit, lift ’em back up,” he said.

Many of those who eat at the Dream Center spend the night in pretty scary places, he said. They sleep in a hole by the river or under a bridge, or they wander the streets at night.

Many can’t stay in the mission shelter or don’t feel comfortable there, he said, and when they camp, they’re cited by police. He said one man put up a tent for the first time that the Dream Center had given him, and he told Edmondson that he was awakened at 5 a.m. by police who took his tent and told him it was trash.

“There’s no place in this area where they can go, absolutely nowhere, and so they have to be somewhere. So wherever they go they’re breaking the law. So they’ve pretty much made them, they’ve turned them into criminals for being homeless,” he said.

Like the mission, Edmondson said the Dream Center offers Christianity. At the Dream Center, though, that doesn’t come in the form of rules and sermons.

“We’re a faith-based system. It’s real simple for us. You love God and you love people,” he said.

At first, it was chaos, he said. Now it’s calm.

“After about three or four months of doing this, all of a sudden they’re all walking in, they’ve got crosses on,” he said.

He thinks people who just view the homeless as a problem would view them differently if they got to know them.

“If you were to come here on a Monday morning and just watch, it’s amazing. I’ve shed tears standing there in that doorway looking out here and watching 40 people eating, smiling, laughing who just came in after spending the night down at the river, having total misery and they’re in here and I’m like, ‘Yeah, this is what it’s all about.’ It’s awesome,” he said.

Dream Center visitors tell us what it's like to be homeless

Thomas Morris has been homeless since 1977. He hit the road after his divorce and has since been in every state but Vermont.

On a warm day in August, Morris sat in a church basement on Southeast Lane Avenue that’s home to the Dream Center. A couple dozen people, many homeless and all down on their luck, visit there Mondays through Thursdays when the center is open.

It’s a chance to receive breakfast and lunch, indoor rest and clothing in a general atmosphere of unconditional love.


“This place is a godsend,” Morris said.

An arm’s length away from Morris was a half-eaten bowl of oatmeal. He hadn’t eaten in a couple of days and said it bothered his stomach. But when strawberries were handed out, he greatly enjoyed those.

An Army veteran who served in Germany between 1970 and 1976, Morris lives on an $801-a-month VA pension. It’s not enough to pay for an apartment. He said he attempted to obtain a housing voucher from the Roseburg Veterans Affairs Medical Center, but gave up on it because the process was taking too long.

Morris carries all his worldly belongings with him in a backpack — layers of warm clothing but never a coat, a sleeping bag, a tent.

About six months ago, Morris jumped on a Greyhound bus in Eugene and rode to Roseburg.

When The News-Review spoke to him, Morris said he was living under a bridge.

He’d been staying there for about three months. Before that, he was camping on a hill near an Interstate 5 ramp.

“Sleeping out in the open, it was windy as hell. Sleeping under the bridge, it’s like the Taj Mahal,” he said.

The homeless life can be really tough, he said.

The night before, he spoke with The News-Review, he said he’d slept outdoors near Fred Meyer. According to Morris, that’s because the day before some police officers had come to the bridge and threatened to arrest people staying there.

“You got to sleep somewhere, you got to sleep or you’re going to be a walking zombie,” he said.

But staying at the county’s only emergency shelter for men, the Roseburg Rescue Mission, is no longer an option for Morris. He had been kicked out of the mission, and is not allowed to return, he said. According to Morris, that’s because he wouldn’t take a drug test. He said the only drugs he uses — marijuana and alcohol — are legal drugs.

“I smoke pot. We don’t do nothing else but smoke pot and drink a beer or two. We ain’t methed out. That makes people stupid. I don’t need to be stupid,” he said.

He doesn’t like the mission, anyway, he said because he was forced to attend religious services when he stayed there.

When Edward McKnight, another homeless man, overheard Morris speaking about the mission, he walked over to join in the discussion.

The two are friends, and McKnight said he found staying at the mission difficult, especially when he obtained a night job. He wanted to sleep during the day but the mission doesn’t allow that. He’s been kicked out of the mission several times, and still eats meals there but he won’t stay overnight.

He’d rather sleep under a bridge with Morris.

“I love it, too. Relaxing, too, warm, everything. A little more mosquitoes than I care for but otherwise it’s fine,” he said.

His routine is to get up in the morning, walk down to the mission, eat breakfast and then go to the mission’s day room to shave, shower and charge his phone. He likes to visit the Dream Center on the days it is open.

Morris became homeless four years ago. He had been in jail on a conviction for stealing a fifth of whiskey. He had been driving a semitrailer before that. After he got out of jail, he divorced his wife and moved to Chicago to take care of his mother, who had chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. After three years of caring for her, he was without money or a job and, for the first time in his life, was homeless, he said.

He planned to move to Minnesota, but moved to Oregon after meeting someone from Roseburg at a Chicago shelter. He traveled first to Portland, which he said he hated, and then moved to Roseburg in October 2017.

In his first year and a half here, he worked as a dishwasher at the Wagon Wheel restaurant, in agricultural work and stocking at Marshalls. But he wasn’t able to hang on to any of those jobs.

He would like to obtain an Oregon license to drive trucks like he did before his life took a turn for the worse, he said. But when he spoke to The News-Review, he hadn’t had a regular job for five months, though he had been paid to help a woman clean out her storage unit the day before.

“It’s not a legitimate reason why I just haven’t put the effort to do it. I’m working on that now,” he said.


Unlike Morris and McKnight, Darryl Shorty does have a roof over his head at night. It’s a garage roof, though, belonging to an elderly homeowner. If he didn’t have that roof, he’d go back to camping outdoors, he said.

He gets food from food banks and sometimes visits the Dream Center.

“If I’m hungry, I crack open a can of something, pears or whatever. If I’m here I get a grilled sandwich. It’s not a bad grilled sandwich,” he said.

The Dream Center, he said, is a blessing.

Shorty’s problems began with a conviction for assault. He said he was protecting his cousin, who he said was being attacked by a person wielding a glass bottle. But the law said Shorty assaulted a minor, and he spent three months in jail before pleading guilty.

Shorty has a landscaping job but doesn’t make enough money to rent a place. His father’s from Canada and his mother was from Alaska. She committed suicide, and his aunt took him in after that, Shorty said. But after his trouble with the law, he left Alaska and has traveled along the Interstate 5 corridor since.

He said he struggles with alcoholism. He’s not sure how much he drinks a day, but he said it’s a hard addiction to get rid of.

“It seems like my mind only goes to getting another beer,” he said.

Shorty’s not sure whether he views himself as homeless.

“I don’t know, I don’t have a home. Home is when you have a family around you,” he said.


Christina, who asked that we not use her last name, frequently volunteers at the Dream Center. She’s not homeless, but she has been in the past and knows what it’s like. She also takes part in meals there, which she said helps stretch the dollars since she and her wife, Elizabeth, and kids survive on disability checks.

She was in Stockton, California, when she became homeless. She had left her husband, who was an abusive alcoholic, she said, and left her kids with him at first. Then she got kicked out of the place where she was living. She said the owners gambled away the rent and demanded additional money.

It was summertime, and the high temperatures were around 115 degrees. The homeless shelter was full, she said, so she and other homeless people slept outdoors.

“We literally slept in the park, but there was a dining hall close by that we would walk to. We’d have breakfast, lunch and dinner there. Monday through Friday they’d have the showers open at the women’s shelter and they had showers for the men. ... The people that were taking showers there left with a fresh new outfit,” she said.

“I wish they had a program out here that offered that,” she said.

Then Christina’s ex-husband passed away and she received survivors benefits. She and Elizabeth decided to move to Yoncalla, where Christina’s biological father lived. They arrived in spring 2016 and moved into a trailer. By the following autumn, it was clear the trailer had mold. She said they brought it to the landlord’s attention the day before Thanksgiving, and he responded with an eviction notice, saying they had to be out by Christmas Eve.

They spent the following two and a half years living at a local motel they said was infested with bedbugs and cockroaches. They cooked with a little electric burner and a crockpot.

They were finally able to move out in April, and are now renting a home thanks to a referral from their children’s youth group pastor.

Christina said to escape the cycle of homelessness, people need a place like the Dream Center that helps them out with meals and clothes, but they also need a place to take showers.

Christina said she never became dependent on alcohol or drugs, but she did occasionally use them. She said many homeless people turn to drugs or alcohol because they are homeless, not the other way around.

“I wasn’t an alcoholic, but when I was on the street I did drugs a few times. That’s easier to find on the street than help,” she said.

Christina and Elizabeth have been together for five years. They met in a rehabilitation center, where Christina was an activity assistant and Elizabeth was a patient. Elizabeth had broken her lower back in half.

Christina was laid off from that job, and said she can’t do that type of work anymore because of back pain. She hasn’t worked since, and Elizabeth hasn’t worked since breaking her back.

Elizabeth said she stayed one night at the Samaritan Inn and it wasn’t ideal. She had planned to camp out for a night to give her wife some space, but it was pouring down rain. So she went to the Samaritan Inn, where she alleged all her things, including her medications for diabetes and pain, were tossed in a dryer.

Christina said the first time they went down to the mission for dinner, they accidentally walked into the men’s day room.

“They chased us out talking about no females allowed,” she said.

Christina said they volunteer because they know what it’s like to be homeless and discriminated against.

“Everybody had their own story. But when we were homeless I used to tell my wife I wish people would treat us like the humans that we are. Being out here, seeing how a lot of people treat the homeless, it’s like I want them to know not everybody is evil, that there are people that truly care about them as a person, not their situation,” she said.

Elizabeth said the day she spent on the street in Roseburg many homeless people realized she was new and tried to help her.

“That’s why it really hurts me to see people tearing down the homeless campsites and tents and this and that, because there are good people in there. Not all homeless people are on drugs, and not all of them are in trouble,” she said.

They just don’t have a place to keep their things, she said.