▶️ Hazardous air lingers; churches offer fresh air, shelter for the homeless

By MEGHAN GLOVA
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY NEWS

Smokey conditions have not done Central Oregon any favors.

For food truck lovers, as well as parents, students, and teachers that were just getting back into the swing of things.

Crook County students in grades K-3 started in-person classes last week.

But due to poor air quality, they’re already back at home.

“We just got started and we want to keep those students moving forward,” said Superintendent Dr. Sara Johnson. “But it becomes a problem to have them out and about in the hazardous air quality.”

Air quality in Central Oregon improved slightly Monday compared to over the weekend, but the AQI was still ranged from “hazardous” to “unhealthy” throughout the day.

An air quality advisory remains in effect for much of the state until noon on Thursday.

However, not every Central Oregonian has the choice to stay indoors until air quality improves.

That’s why one local church is opening its doors until the smoke clears.

First Presbyterian Church is providing food, water, and a place to sleep to as many of Bend’s homeless population as they can.

They call it their smoke relief shelter.

“Just knowing that obviously the air quality here is incredibly dangerous and hazardous at the moment,” Pastor Morgan Schmidt said. “Many of us were just incredibly concerned at people actually having to live outside and then sleep outside in this.”

According to environmental epidemiologist Perry Hystad, the homeless population is at higher risk for disease development because they are unable to protect themselves indoors, away from dangerous air quality.

“Without the opportunity to get inside, and with so many places closed, either because of smoke or because of COVID, it just kind of compounds the problem,” Schmidt said. “Honestly, I wish we had even more spaces available, but we’re doing what we can for those who can get here to get out of the smoke.”

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