Ashland's Pioneer Hall homeless shelter opens this week

It will be open Thursday nights through April and staffed by volunteers

A weekly, Thursday-night homeless shelter will launch this week in a city-owned building in Ashland.

The shelter will be in Pioneer Hall, located at 73 Winburn Way, across from Lithia Park.

Volunteers and city staff members are working out details for the exact starting time for the shelter, but it likely will open between 7:30 and 8:30 p.m.

The Ashland City Council approved the use of a city building last week for a shelter on Thursday nights through April.

Members of the Rogue Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship and Temple Emek Shalom have volunteered to staff the Thursday-night shelter.

Councilors mandated a number of requirements to address safety and liability concerns, including that volunteers undergo criminal background checks.

The Ashland Police Department has been processing criminal background checks on volunteers and waiving the department's usual $20 fee, according to APD personnel.

RVUUF member John Wieczorek said he and others have gone through the criminal background check this week, which includes filling out a form and being fingerprinted.

"It seems like the police chief really wants to accommodate people," Wieczorek said of APD Chief Terry Holderness.

The First Presbyterian Church of Ashland already hosts a Monday-night shelter, while Trinity Episcopal Church offers shelter on Wednesday nights.

Members of those two congregations, as well as other community members with experience serving the homeless, will conduct shelter volunteer training from 7 to 8:30 p.m. tonight at the First Presbyterian Church, located at the corner of Siskiyou Boulevard and Walker Avenue.

All community members, not just members of RVUUF or Temple Emek Shalom, are invited to attend the training and to sign up as shelter volunteers.

Topics will include how to welcome homeless people, volunteer signup and coordination, dealing with mental-health issues and criminal background checks.

Ashland Daily Tidings staff reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-479-8199 or vlaldous@yahoo.com.


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