By Mikael Krummel

The Eugene Drop site in downtown Eugene has largely flown under the radar. An evolving master plan points to the large, remodeled site across from the Hult Center becoming a new, cornerstone safe space where young people can learn leadership skills to promote positive change.

Eugene Drop is managed by the organization Youth Era. Drop will be functioning largely as an overnight shelter for homeless youths. Over time, they are working to become more.

Drop’s vision incorporates healthcare, mental health, educational, employment, parenting, and drug recovery services. Plans include expanding existing partnerships with the 4J School District and 15th Night youth agency and also bridging to other school districts, government services, and private social service agencies.

“If you look back at what we were doing early on, our whole goal has been how we can move the needle in the mental health world to help young people in significant ways that will improve their quality of life, but cost the system less money,” Youth Era CEA Martin Rafferty says.

Rafferty explains that Drop’s approach emphasizes youth development, character strength, personal engagement, and relationship success. “Those core issues from the mental health side are what we’re bringing into this specialized homeless service array,” he says.

Drop will soon start accepting youths for overnight stays. Residents will typically be confronting issues like family emergencies; physical, emotional, and sexual threats; and homelessness. The center is initially expected to provide beds and meals to 15 to 30 young people a day.

“What I think most critical at this point is that we have people here who are cheerleaders, reliable people, helpers who are always available to the youth and can give them that extra push and follow-through they might need,” chief program officer Tia Barnes says.

“This is going to be a catalyst for change for youth in our community,” says Megan Shultz, community coordinator at 15th Night. “The vibe in here is going to feel very different. I think kids will walk in here and feel like they belong and that they’re cared for.”