Central Oregon homeless vets get help to stay warm

Black Butte Ranch firefighters gather, donate warm gear

Homeless get help staying warm

BEND, Ore. - "So many people die from exposure, because they get caught unprepared," said Scott Guthrie, an Army Veteran said Wednesday.

Guthrie has been homeless for about 10 years.

"I keep all of my clothing next to me to keep me warm," said Guthrie.

He stays warm at night in his tent and sleeping bag, provided by Central Oregon Veterans Outreach.

"They've made my life considerably easier," said Guthrie.

COVO sees around 500 veterans a month; anywhere from 300 to 400 of them are homeless.

"It gets so cold that if they don't have protection, it's going to cause health problems," said the homeless outreach coordinator for COVO, John Morris. "We're getting low -- I'd say we're down to about 10 to 12 sleeping bags."

That was, until Wednesday afternoon, when a big delivery came-in from the Black Butte Ranch Fire Department.

'We have 40 sleeping bags, 400 hand warmers and 30 body warmers," said Jason Lengele, a firefighter and EMT basic with the department.

Since January, the fire department, which includes five veterans, raised money to buy these items through fundraisers.

"We think that the words veterans and homeless should never be used in the same sentence," said Lengele.

"If it wasn't for donations like this, and people doing drives like this we wouldn't be here," said Morris.

It's donations like the sleeping bags that keep those like Guthrie warm and comforted.

"They make you feel less anxious about, 'Am I going to make it through the night? Is it going to get colder?" said Guthrie.

Something he not only worries for himself, but for his friends as well.

"Stay dry, stay warm, stay safe," said Guthrie.

The Black Butte Ranch Fire Department will have the same fundraiser next year, and they say they hope to double their donations.

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