With temperatures dipping into the 30s and still no overnight shelters in place to keep the unhoused warm, homeless advocates took matters into their own hands this week.

At the Foursquare Gospel Center in Winston, senior pastor Jerry Smart offered up his space Tuesday night for people to come out of the cold. About a dozen did and six stayed overnight. They were served chicken pot pie, said Wayne Ellsworth, homeless outreach coordinator for South River Community Health Center and chair of the Homeless Transition Action Group.

Ellsworth helped pull together the shelter and was there much of the night, along with five volunteers from the Gospel Center. The space is big enough to hold about 25 people, Ellsworth said. The center will open when the weather dips to 30 degrees or below, or when it hits 32 degrees and there is snow — as long as they have enough volunteers and supplies, Ellsworth said.

“Unfortunately, volunteers and supplies are limited,” he said.

At Gaddis Park in Roseburg, Max Stafford went even further Tuesday night. He fastened commercial wrap around a section of the open-air pavilion in the park and brought in three propane heaters and 10 cots to create his own warming shelter.

About two dozen people took advantage of the impromptu shelter, and they were further warmed by the soup Stafford handed out. Stafford, who delivers food, drinks, clothing and other items to members of the homeless community several times a week through his Redemptive Ministries/Wheels of Hope, said word of the shelter spread quickly among the unhoused in the area.

“When you build a fire they come, and Gaddis already has solid traffic,” Stafford said. “It’s just where they’re at.”

However, the Gaddis shelter didn’t last long. Stafford got word Wednesday morning that the Roseburg Police Department and other officials were on their way to dismantle it. As Stafford arrived at the park he videotaped the shelter and talked about why it was necessary, then posted his comments on his Facebook page, which included passages of scripture interspersed with his own commentary.

“It’s makeshift, but it kept people warm last night, it kept people by a fire, it fed people, it gave them coffee, it gave them hope,” Stafford said on the video, the sound of wind whipping in the background.

Stafford also issued his own personal call to arms, asking for items to help the unhoused stay warm and safe, including sleeping bags, tents, blankets, propane heaters and cots. He needs people too, Stafford said.

“I need some bodies down here. I need some food down here at Gaddis park. I need the people that believe that the homeless need shelter today,” he said.

“Now this might not be the best choice, but it’s what we have right now,” he said. “Nobody has stepped up, not a church has stepped up. We are desperate to get these folks well. I want to see them well. I want to see our community have nobody sleeping on the riverbanks. I don’t want to see any more RVs all over our community. We can do this and we can do it much better than we’ve been doing it.”

Shortly before noon Wednesday, as Stafford stood on the edge of the Gaddis Park pavilion speaking with Roseburg Police Capt. Jeremy Sanders and officer Josh Chavez, Jason Doan began dismantling and moving propane tanks used to provide heat inside the pavilion. James Granquist and Amy Smith were also busy breaking down the makeshift warming center.

Doan began breaking down the commercial wrap surrounding the building as a woman, dressed in a maroon sweater and blue and white stocking cap, leaned against the side of a support pole.

Minutes later, a shriek interrupted the conversation between Stafford and Roseburg police officers. The same woman sat on the cement floor in apparent pain.

Sanders offered to summon an ambulance. Stafford said that would not be necessary.

Later, he walked over to her, kneeled down and put his arm around her. Minutes later, she was transferred to one of the cots provided for the shelter. As the woman lay there covered in blankets, Granquist walked over, sat carefully on the edge of her cot and put his arm out to comfort her.

Her knee was hurting her, Stafford said, but it was something more than physical pain.

“I think her emotions are hurting is what is really going on,” Stafford said. “I think she is traumatized about something that happened probably last night or today. I do know she came here because she felt safe.”

NO WARMING CENTERThis is the second winter in a row that the city has been without a cold-weather shelter.

The Roseburg Dream Center, which provides food, clothing and services to the homeless community, had been running a warming center for several years at its downtown Roseburg location. But in August 2020 the agency was forced to move from that location by the owners of the building.

The Dream Center found a new location east of downtown on Diamond Lake Boulevard, but the building doesn’t have the space to house a warming center, especially under requirements for COVID-19, agency officials said.

Last winter, the Roseburg City Council approved changes in regulations that were intended to make it easier for church groups to open their doors for a warming center. However, none did.

The City Council also tweaked regulations to make it easier to allow individuals to camp overnight in their vehicles in designated spots, overseen by a church or other organization, but again, not a single vehicle camping site has been opened.

This past January, the city formed a homeless commission to help work through some of these issues. The first task the commission took on was to figure out a way to open a warming center. However, the commission quickly changed course and instead decided to help homeless individuals survive the winter by providing tents, sleeping bags and other goods to help them shelter in place.

The commission also created an immediate needs ad hoc committee in June to provide such items to those who are homeless. However, that committee was disbanded the following month after city officials said its work overlapped with that of the Homeless Transition Action Group, or HTAG.

Ellsworth is the chair of HTAG. He said there are discussions underway with various groups expressing a possible interest in opening a cold-weather shelter, but nothing is concrete yet.

City of Roseburg spokesperson Suzanne Hurt said the city has also been trying to work with churches, social service agencies and the public at large in an effort to provide shelter for homeless individuals this winter.

Last month, city officials held a virtual meeting with a handful of church leaders — including Foursquare Gospel Center — and issued a plea to the general public seeking help in opening a warming center. Additionally, a letter was sent out to a broad array of church leaders, asking for their help in opening a warming center.

But any such shelter must follow city code, and the one Stafford erected at Gaddis Park didn’t, Hurt said.

The city learned of the shelter by someone who called Douglas County dispatch to complain about it, she said. The Roseburg Police Department then got a call for service and responded.

“The concern is that a temporary shelter set up in a pavilion violates park rules and regulations,” she said. “The violations include ‘any activity that is not authorized by a city permit, and which is incompatible with or disrupts the general public use of park property.’ The public has a legal right to be able to access all facilities within parks from dawn to dusk, and to not be kept from using such facilities by unauthorized use and alterations of a park facility.”

And if another such shelter is erected, what then?

“If something else were to be erected in violation of Roseburg park rules and regulations, that would have to come down,” Hurt said.

Hurt also said that the city didn’t dismantle the pavilion warming center Wednesday, Stafford did.

Stafford acknowledged that was true — to a point.

“The option was to take it down or they take it down and give me a criminal citation,” he said Wednesday evening. “It’s tough to stand up for human decency. However, I did choose to have it taken down for a few hours. It’s back up now.”

Scott Carroll can be reached at scarroll@nrtoday.com or 541-957-4204. Or follow him on Twitter @scottcarroll15.

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(14) comments


That propane-heated enclosed space looks like an invitation to carbon monoxide poisoning and death.

Fine article; thank you, News-Review.


I thought the same thing, CitizenJoe, and hoped it was open on one side. At least people were trying to help.


I suggest hot tents with vented woodstoves, at designated places for people to be. Although woodstoves create carbon monoxide, the stoves made for these can be used safely. That way they could all protect themselves much better in the future. Also these can protect everyone, not just those who make it to a warming center or shelter when it is 32 degrees and snowing.

Even better, we should quit trying to manage the problem of homelessness and start solve it with actual housing for everyone.

Nurse Bishop

The homeless are a real problem. In many places, America, the greatest nation this world has ever known is starting to look like a third world country. We have got to do something and not allow people to live on the street in garbage piles like rats, surrounded with trash, needles and feces. We can't just go around someone lying unconcious on the sidewalk. We should not have to avoid aggressive drug crazed individulas raving in the street. A lot of these people are incapable of taking care of themselves. Yet the ACLU and others lobby for laws that allow people so people can be free to be metally ill or street dwelling drunks, drug addicts and criminals. I don't blame the churches for not wanting to take this problem on, it is even dangerous for the usually elderly do gooders. "The homeless need homes" - Many, if not most citizens can hardly afford to keep their own homes and pay their property taxes.

Personally from what I have seen the homeless need to be rounded up, sorted out and helped. The ones just down on their luck, homeless because they lost their job, they need to be given a boost to get a home and a job again. The mentally ill need to go to mental hospital to be given their medicine. Because they stop taking their meds once back on the street. The drunk and addicted need expensive rehab programs payed for by the taxpayers. But many if not most go right back to drugs as soon as they get out. They go back to expensive rehab multiple times.They, too, need to be penned up on something like a county work farm, where they could learn pride in themselves learn useful skills to support themselves and have a normal life.

These are my solutions but are these going to happen? No, because the ACLU and the liberals won't allow. So parts of our towns and cities look like stinking armpits with people living on piles of garbage like rats. Hats off to the Roseburg Police Dept. What would we do without the police? And finally, here is what the city of Coos Bay has done about the homeless problem> https://theworldlink.com/news/local/coos-bay-passes-camping-ordinance-to-regulate-homeless/article_58d09ec2-f934-11eb-98be-db7f7f3105da.html


It is saddening that churches in Roseburg are not opening warming centers for the homeless. Two churches with which I am familiar, St. Joseph's Catholic Church and the Mormon Church in Hucrest, each have large gymnasiums which could easily serve as warming centers.They sit unused every night. Why not put them to good use? Where is the Christian spirit amongst you? Please open your doors to those in need.

MI Go Beav

Sure, letting drug addicted, mentally-ill people into your building? What could go wrong? Why don't you open your home to these people?


It's a shame that someone in the community called the police on people trying to stay warm during cold weather. It is becoming more and more apparent to me that the citizens of Roseburg are not kind people.


Not to frighten you John, but we could very well be related way up the family tree. My great grandparents Payne homesteaded in the late 1800's outside of Pendleton. [unsure]


"Roseburg City Council approved changes in regulations that were intended to make it easier for church groups to open their doors for a warming center. However, none did." This explains why younger people are moving away from religion. Younger people could be involved in volunteering in the operation of temporary housing at church facilities, any teen can stir a soup. You can't tell me that area houses of worship intended them to be operated as country clubs for the elite. That would make them monsters who have turned away from the teachings of Jesus. What's gone wrong with a church who no longer believes in benevolence, who turns their back on the least among us?


NJ, what are you doing to help? If you volunteer, regularly support a charity, or otherwise give of yourself to help others, I commend you. But still, I'm confused by your above statement. Why are you so quick to broadly cast judgment on religion, specifically Christianity? Sure, there are those so-called believers whose actions don't align with their purported faith. And yet there are others who willfully, publicly, and shamelessly admonish people, making gross generalizations absent a real attempt to identify motive or intent. Those ignorant and misinformed statements, like yours, do as much to influence young people as the "monsters" in the church. So, I ask you, what's gone wrong with people like yourself who no longer believe in benevolence and instead use forums like this to spur hate and division? You turn your back on not just the least among us, but society as a whole. And in case you're wondering, I've made a career of serving the least among us. If you've done the same, again I thank you. But maybe step off the pulpit and get your hands dirty making a real difference. In case you missed my point, posting BS here is not making a difference.


You feel personally attacked and in return attack back, mistakenly assuming who I am without any real knowledge. If it makes you feel better to take an opportunity to brag about your benevolence while attacking mine, you mistake my opinion of Churches as a personal attack. Now that you've vented in a not so very benevolent way, I have some questions for you. As reported, why do you think no church in the community to date has opened up a warming center or any area of their property to help or house the least among us? Why would someone who is benevolent accuse another for their opinion when it's based on what's reported? I don't believe you're interpreting the article or my comments correctly and perhaps need to re-read. What the law won't allow (a city park warming center), why aren't churches opening their doors? Why are young people moving away from religion? A denomination can't just build a church and expect their work is done, it's rather just begun in fostering benevolence among their congregation young and old. Are your comments against me truly fostering a benevolence you appear to deeply cherish? Don't see my comments as a personal attack but rather as an opportunity to promote your benevolence in a more productive way. You might also want to read this for insight: https://www.npr.org/2013/01/15/169342349/more-young-people-are-moving-away-from-religion-but-why


Dear Ghost of David Hasselhoff (I had to look it up.)

Let me introduce myself. I've worked with the least among us since I was about 16 years old. At that age I couldn't do much except stir a pot of soup or drive people to the doctor, but as I got older I gained a lot of experience. When someone's about to go off the rails they often wave red flags at everyone around them. Maybe I'm just getting a flash of red swim trunks, Hoff, but i see red flags waving. This is a hard time of year for many people.

Maybe think about getting a meeting in or getting medication adjusted. Maybe just have a good meal and talk to a friend. There is benevolence and kindness out there, but we all have to both reach for it and give it to others. I hope this week before Christmas goes well for you. Take Care.

Sighed: Ghost of Christmas Past


Although very few organized churches in our community directly help people who are homeless, the majority of people who make sure folks have some basic survival needs met (like food) are faith based. Either churches, or outreach ministries.

In Roseburg, places like the St Joe's kitchen (Catholic Church related) and Dream Center provide help. There are outreach ministries like Under the Bridge, Wheels of Hope, Servants of Christ and Laundry Love. Plus folks who just do it because they believe they are doing God's work out there caring. I don't know what would really be happening if these folks were not there for people living rough. Although I am not one of these folks (Housing First Umpqua is not a faith based organization), these are the folks in this community who are really taking care of the basic needs of the people who most of us tend to ignore or complain about.


What a shame it is that the ongoing work of these faith-based groups is never presented in print the way you're able to summarize it here. Thank you Betsy. I'd suggest that anyone who reads this take an opportunity to support these groups' efforts by volunteering or offering monetary support.

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