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MailTribune.com
  • Help along the way

    Ashland's new resource center aims to be a one-stop shop for assistance
  • Open just a few weeks, the Ashland Community Resource Center is already helping a steady stream of homeless people and others in need.
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      The Ashland Community Resource Center is open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday at 570 B Clover Lane in part of the Ashland Masonic Center.
      More volunteers are needed to staff the m...
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      More information
      The Ashland Community Resource Center is open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday at 570 B Clover Lane in part of the Ashland Masonic Center.

      More volunteers are needed to staff the mobile shower unit when it begins operating.

      For more information, call the center at 541-631-2235.
  • Open just a few weeks, the Ashland Community Resource Center is already helping a steady stream of homeless people and others in need.
    Some are dropping in to warm up, visit and drink a cup of coffee, while others are seeking help on a number of fronts.
    "We've averaged 10 visitors per day. We've had some really good success," said Leigh Madsen, part-time manager for the center at 570 B Clover Lane near Exit 14. "We were able to get one veteran who has been chronically homeless housed. We helped a young lady find shelter."
    So far, few young men have visited the center, although they often attend shelter nights held four nights a week in city-owned buildings and Ashland churches.
    Madsen, also a volunteer at shelter nights, said younger men tend to be more independent and think of homelessness as a challenge.
    "They're more successful at surviving the difficulties of being outside," he said.
    The last Friday of every month, the center will host a representative from Maslow Project, a nonprofit group that helps homeless youths, Madsen said.
    "We want to let people know we have services for young people and families," he said, noting that the center has been serving one family with children. "They're the hardest group to attract. They're gun-shy of being identified as homeless. They want to be self-sufficient."
    Madsen said he's been surprised by the number of veterans visiting the center. Most are from the Vietnam era, although there are younger veterans as well.
    They have needed everything from help getting discharge papers to telephones, he said.
    Every Thursday, the center will have someone on hand specifically trained to help veterans, Madsen said.
    Various local organizations can provide services, including housing and job reintegration programs, he said.
    "I'm just starting to learn all the ways we can help veterans," Madsen said.
    The center was able to launch after the Ashland City Council approved a $100,000 grant spread over two years for the Medford-based ACCESS social services organization to team with grassroots group Options for Homeless Residents of Ashland to run the center.
    It relies heavily on volunteers. Rather than duplicating services found in the Rogue Valley, the center seeks to match people in need with those services.
    Veteran Stephen Bowling was recently at the center using one of its computer stations.
    "I think it's a great place to come in and get out of the cold or the heat," he said. "It has access to the Internet. I can look for work."
    Bowling said people staffing the center have been welcoming, and he is looking forward to visiting a mobile shower unit that will begin operating in Ashland, possibly this month.
    The unit will likely move around town to a church and the parking lot in between the resource center and the nearby Ashland Emergency Food Bank.
    Eric Robinson, who said he prefers living outside to being inside buildings, was looking through an outdoor gear magazine as he sat at a table topped with magazines and a box of dominoes.
    Behind him, hot coffee and snacks awaited, while a couch and chairs were arranged comfortably around the large room.
    "This is neat," he said of the resource center. "It's right by the food bank. It's in a good neutral zone. It's at the edge of town and it's not a residential area."
    Robinson said he came to the center to do research at a computer station.
    A local resident for 30 years, Robinson said he doesn't feel welcome downtown.
    "You can't sit for five minutes without being rousted. If you're not spending, the attitude is, 'Keep moving,'"‰" he said.
    Robinson said people without homes used to be able to camp in their cars and eventually improve their situation.
    "There used to be stepping stones. You could live in a van and get a job at a restaurant. Now it's harder to do that," he said. "There's too big of a leap required."
    World War II veteran Bob Cox said he volunteers at the resource center because he often sees homeless people at dusk and thinks about their miserable nights ahead in the cold, rain or snow.
    Cox previously volunteered at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Forensics Laboratory in Ashland. He also currently volunteers at the Ashland Senior Center.
    "It's time to give something back," he said.
    Stationed at the center's reception desk, Southern Oregon University student Denise McNultey has been volunteering for the center since before it opened as part of her senior Capstone project.
    A psychology major who hopes to become a nursing-home administrator, McNultey said she had never worked with people in need before.
    "I think it's wonderful here. It's home now. I'm getting used to the environment," she said. "It's quite a learning experience. I was really lucky to find this opportunity. I'm almost done, but I will be sad to leave."
    When people come in, McNultey greets them and asks them to sign in.
    Some only want to visit, warm up and use the bathroom, but others looking for help fill out a quick questionnaire about their needs in categories like housing, energy bills, food, transportation, child care, income and health.
    The people staffing the center can then begin helping them by connecting them with services.
    Madsen, the center's part-time manager and only paid staff member, said that each person's situation is unique. The center is continuing to forge connections with other organizations to provide help.
    "I've only been doing this for two weeks," he said. "Every time I help a client, I learn a new set of telephone numbers."
    Reach reporter Vickie Aldous at 541-479-8199 or vlaldous@yahoo.com. Follow her at www.twitter.com/VickieAldous.
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