NHCW 2017: A clean safe resting place with a dedicated staff

Monday, August 14, 2017

Central City Concern’s Sobering Station for people incapacitated by alcohol or drugs might not sound like an uplifting place, but there is plenty to love about it. “My favorite part is getting to know people and hearing their stories,” says Amanda Guevara, program director. She has worked for CCC for 11 years and is dedicated to helping people in the community.

“We have return visitors,” she says, “and when they decide to make a change, we can be a part of it.”

Sobering visitors range from repeat visitors to weekend warriors.... Last year, the CHIERS van conducted 1,128 street assessments, and 3,757 people were admitted into sobering.

The Sobering Station in inner-southeast Portland takes people who need a safe place to come down from drinking too much alcohol or taking too many drugs. The Portland Police Bureau or community members refer people in need. The Central City Concern Hooper Inebriate Emergency Response Service (CHIERS) van picks people up and transports them to the Sobering Station where they receive an assessment from a medical professional. Anyone can call for the CHIERS van (503-238-8132, 1:45-11:45 pm) to pick up someone on the street who is incapacitated, and the van also roams the streets looking for people who may need help.

Sobering visitors range from repeat visitors to weekend warriors. PDX airport often calls for travelers who have had too much to drink, and Portland police refer people who have not done anything illegal, but need a safe place to sober up. Last year, the CHIERS van conducted 1,128 street assessments, and 3,757 people were admitted into sobering. 

Once someone is admitted into sobering, they get a medical assessment, a clean place to rest and referral to additional resources. But mostly, they receive a level of caring that only a dedicated staff can provide.

“I like knowing there is a population we help and know best,” says Kevin Smith, Sobering Station supervisor. “They know us—these are our people.” Kevin says he likes being able to offer resources and problem solve for people. The Sobering Station staff sometimes washes visitors’ clothes, provide hygiene kits and shoes, and even cut hair and apply lice treatments. “We see some people regularly,” says Kevin, who has worked for CCC for seven years. “We know what they need.”

“We’re here for people who may have burned bridges. We’re here for people who have nowhere else to go.”

The Sobering Station also does anything it can to serve the community at the street level. In the summer, the CHIERS van staff passes out water and sunscreen; in winter, hats, gloves and hot soup. On extremely bitter nights, volunteer crews make the rounds after hours and give people rides to shelters. The Sobering Station building sometimes opens as a warming shelter. In Sept. 2017, CCC will unveil a new CHIERS van with updated features that will ensure safe and comfortable transport for people going to the Sobering Station.

“We’re here for people who may have burned bridges,” says Amanda. “We’re here for people who have nowhere else to go.”

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Download a card as a handy reminder of how to contact the CHIERS van in case you see someone in need.