On Saturday night, Nov. 30, the weather outside in St. Helens was quickly getting colder. On a local Facebook community page, local Brandee Dudzic saw a friend posting for donations to get a room at Motel 6 for two people they’d seen walking down the highway. Dudzic responded saying she would pick up the remaining tab, but then the conversation turned … what was everyone else going to do?
The Columbia County Warming Center was not scheduled to open until Dec. 1, and the night would soon see temperatures below freezing. Dudzic considered opening her home for the night, but that wasn’t a viable option considering she has children at home, so she considered other spaces she had access to. Immediately, she thought of the Columbia County Law Library.
“The Law Library is such a special place to me and it made all the sense in the world to me to open it for the night,” Dudzic said when The Chronicle reached out to her to ask her about opening its doors on Saturday night.
Dudzic said she went through the appropriate channels to get permission to open for the homeless. She made it clear it was a one-time thing – we have a warming center she’s grateful for, she said, they just weren’t open, and she wanted to fill the gap. She laid out plans to call the St. Helens Police Department ahead of time to let them know and make sure they were available for some extra rounds on South 1st Street in case they were needed. She would stay awake and remain in complete control of the entire operation and lean on her formal training in bystander intervention and de-escalation.
“I am confident in my ability to de-escalate moments of intense emotions and even violent behaviors,” Dudzic said. “I knew what I was getting into. I knew I’d have people who may be emotional and dysregulated, some might have substance abuse issues or might not show up in their right minds. I took all of that into consideration based on the training that I have.”
Dudzic ran home to gather every spare blanket she had and went to the store for three cases of instant noodles and tea, so she’d have something to offer people. In the end, however, no one came. Dudzic believes she got the word out too late or perhaps the folks who needed the message didn’t have internet access at the time of her announcing its opening.
It was snowing when Dudzic left the Law Library, she said she couldn’t believe how could it was outside, but despite no one coming she was grateful she was able to open.
“I knew I had the ability to give them a warm, dry space that night until the warming center could open,” Dudzic said. “I am a doer, and I believe that making a decision, any decision, in the face of a time-sensitive, sincere need, is always superior to feeling helpless and doing nothing.”