'People die on the street every day. We just don't hear about it'

EUGENE, Ore. -- Undertaking a two-phase expansion of the Lindholm Service Center in Eugene, St. Vincent De Paul is trying to meet a growing demand from homeless seeking shelter from the cold during the day.

"People will die," said St. Vincent De Paul executive director Terry McDonald at the center on Monday. "People die on the street every day. We just don't hear much about it. The goal of this organization is to mitigate the worst of those effects as possible."

McDonald said daily visitors to the Lindholm Service Center at 456 Highway 99 North have increased from 130 to nearly 200.

"We have a substantial new, not repeated, number population that we did not have before," said McDonald as he stood in front of the expansion project, still in demolition.

The first phase of the project, funded by St. Vincent De Paul, will expand the day center to make room for more people seeking shelter from the cold.

"It's time to do something and act right now because when we get those very cold winter days, suddenly we're talking about people not being able to survive on the street," said McDonald. "We must have a response."

The second phase, which will be funded by the City of Eugene, will expand the center's kitchen. This phase will commence in the spring of 2013.

Lead volunteer William Miller said veterans are among the new faces coming through the center.

"There's a lot of veterans that are homeless right now," said Miller as he prepared sandwiches for lunch on Monday.

"Hopefully the VA can help us out," added Miller, "but still waiting for that to happen. I keep waiting."

In addition to the Recession, McDonald said he has a theory about the cause of an increased demand for services from the day center.

"So, as a result of lower public funds available to deal with people coupled with an increased demand, it's created a perfect storm," said McDonald.

Miller, a Gulf War veteran injured overseas, said help from St. Vincent De Paul changed his life for the better.

"Oh, god, I was living on the streets just trying to make it day to day," said Miller. "There's nights that are just cold."

Miller first came to St. Vincent De Paul as a client. He said over the last ten years, various programs including the day center on Highway 99 helped him get back on his feet.

"This place is a good, God sent place," said Miller. "This place is for anyone who's homeless on the street that needs a little bit of help."