While the city of Ashland works to develop a homeless center, the community has doubled its shelter options, adding one night a week at Trinity Episcopal Church.
After a unanimous vote by the congregation, Trinity's parish hall will be open for the homeless at 8:30 p.m. on Wednesdays on Second Street at Lithia Way. That augments the existing Monday night winter shelter at First Presbyterian Church, Walker Avenue at Siskiyou Boulevard, also open at 8:30 p.m.
"The decision was unanimous, and we look forward to hosting the homeless," said Trinity Rector Anthony Hutchinson. "We want to welcome the stranger into our midst."
Trinity's mission is "to care for one another and the stranger alike," says its website, and its listed core values include compassion, generosity and hospitality.
"We hope other faith communities in Ashland step up for this need also," said Hutchinson.
Guests at the churches bring their own sleeping bags and pads, though there may be other blankets available, he said, adding that visitors can microwave food and make tea.
When nighttime temperatures are predicted to go below 20 degrees, the Ashland Parks Department, according to a 2007 emergency resolution, can open overnight shelter space at Pioneer Hall and Ashland Community Center, both on Winburn Way by Lithia Park.
The Presbyterian Church also has added nights when the mercury plummets.
The city's Ad Hoc Homelessness Steering Committee, appointed by the City Council, has for several months been doing outreach with faith organizations, surveying services for the homeless and encouraging participation in the shelter program for the homeless and impoverished, said Linda Reid, city housing program specialist.
"Generally, churches have come forward, unless their space is in use," said Reid.
The churches invite community volunteers to help staff the shelters and spend the night with guests. Volunteers are paired with an experienced volunteer to "help provide hospitality" to the homeless, according to a city statement.
A winter shelter volunteer training is being offered at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 27, at the Presbyterian Church's Calvin Hall.
Included in the city's survey of services for the homeless and impoverished are:
The city also is seeking applications from social services groups interested in running a homelessness day center in town, with the city paying up to $100,000 over two years to lease space for it.
John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.