A homeless man and double leg amputee died in Bend, Oregon this week as temperatures hovered around freezing and strong, gusting winds hit the region.
A sanitation worker found David Melvin Savory, 57, dead next to his wheelchair outside a Rite Aid early Tuesday morning, The Bulletin reported. Savory was on the waitlist for several area homeless shelters and some residents who had seen him outside the Rite Aid gave him blankets, started a Go Fund Me page for him and tried to find him services before his death.
Bend, which often sees heavy snow in the winter, doesn’t have a permanent warming shelter and lacks a year-round low-barrier homeless shelter, according to the newspaper. Advocates say those are “huge gaps” in the safety net.
The temperature when the worker found Savory at 4:08 a.m. was 33 degrees and winds had been gusting at 20 mph.
Savory’s death underscores a huge gap in services in Central Oregon, said Stacey Witte, head of homeless aid organization REACH.
So-called high-barrier shelters like Bethlehem Inn, which operate close to capacity year-round, have more rigid rules and don’t accept people who are intoxicated, she said.
Bend doesn't have any year-round so-called “low-barrier shelters,” which tend to provide fewer services but take in almost everyone, even if they’re still using drugs or alcohol. Yet that's where the Central Oregon city's greatest need is, Witte said.
“The goal of low-barrier shelters is basically to keep people alive while social service agencies come in and build relationships and start creating plans for people,” Witte said.
Bend also lacks a permanent warming shelter.
The COVID-19 pandemic has noticeably increased homelessness in Bend and new social distancing restrictions mean fewer people can find relief in shelters just when need is spiking, said Dave Notari, development director of the Shepherd’s House in Bend.
Melody Horner, 27, ran into that problem last weekend when she saw Savory outside the Rite Aid and tried to help him. His hands were red from exposure and he had bloodstains on his pants.
“It just broke my heart,” Horner said. “I could see that he was struggling.”
Horner’s sister bought Savory two blankets and Horner decided to set up a fundraising page for him. She connected with homeless advocates but found that all the local shelters were full or have an application process that takes weeks. She called motels, but they wouldn’t take Savory because he didn’t have a valid ID, even if Horner paid for his stay.
“I hated the idea of no one fighting for him,” she said.
Horner was coming up with a long-term plan to help Savory last weekend when he died.
Legal records show Savory lived in California before moving to Oregon. He was married at one point. He left a trail of low-level arrests around the state, most for trespassing and theft. His latest arrest came in 2019 for stealing $100 worth of groceries from Walmart.
He lost his legs near the beginning of the year.
“He told me that this wasn’t his plan,” Horner said. “He told me there were things that he’d done in the past, but I feel like no human being deserves to be alone and hungry.”