New Women's Center at Eugene Mission opens Saturday

EUGENE, Ore. - Saturday marks a big step forward for the Eugene Mission near downtown and for homeless women seeking a better life.

A new $1.6 million women's center is set to open its doors, marking a milestone for the 56-year-old Mission.

One word describes the current women's shelter at the Eugene Mission: Overcrowded. It was designed to hold just 50 folks.

"Some nights we're holding as much as 75 by putting mattresses on the floor," said Jack Tripp, Eugene Mission Executive director.

This weekend the overcrowding comes to an end with the grand opening of the Mission's new women's center east of the main building.

"This new center will be almost twice as big," Tripp said. "It will hold 110 women."

The center has a large day room, chapel, clothing boutique and expanded bed space - which means no more mattresses on the floor.

Homeless until last fall, Aislinn Blackstone said she can't wait to make the move.

"That's the amount of women that are not having to sleep on the streets tonight. The fact that we can now help 100-plus, possibly more women is absolutely amazing," said Blackstone.

Tripp pointed out that beyond all the added bed space at the center, the bottom line for him is creating the right setting for changed lives.

This summer begins a new Mission women's program called "New Life."

Directors said women who want to take part will spend up to one year in the program to restore their health and gain job skills.

Community donations paid all the costs to build the center.

"I think that paints a very clear picture in our guests minds of how much the community cares and how much they value the women be in a safe structure," said Holleigh Woodward, the women's center manager.

Saturday's open house at the Eugene Mission begins at 9 a.m. Tripp said that with the new center and other recent programs, The Mission needs to more than triple their staff of 125 volunteers at the mission.