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Homeless families find refuge in new Hope House

When the chips are down, the job is lost, the family is poor and no friends are left with a place to stay, where's a homeless family supposed to turn?

In JacksonCounty, people who are trying to turn their lives around can look for hope, and help, at the Salvation Army.

Following a ribbon-cutting ceremony Wednesday, 12 new apartments at the Salvation Army's Hope House in Medford will be available for financially challenged families who are trying to get their lives back on track.

Jackie Agee, development director for the Salvation Army, says the project is a big step in assisting families who are living on the edge. "It's going to give families a safe place to live while they look for work and get their lives together for two years," she said.

The program does more than just give families a place to stay, Agee says. It also provides a range of support services — physical, mental, emotional and spiritual — by offering a drug- and alcohol-free community that encourages personal growth. Case managers and support personnel staff the facility 24/7, with drug- and alcohol-treatment programs provided when needed. Clients are taught budgeting and parenting skills, as well as anger management, if needed.

"There's no other program like this in Jackson County," said David Flood, the father of a family of four who will move into one of the apartments this week.

Homelessness often is related to problems such as drugs, alcohol, crime and job loss, but for Flood, it was an effort to better himself that led to financial woes.

Flood attends Southern Oregon University, studying mental-health counseling. He ran into financial difficulties while going to graduate school. He and his family were staying with friends whose home was foreclosed, leaving the Floods scrambling.

"Without this program we would have been in dire straits," Flood said.

The Salvation Army Transitional Family Housing Program encourages families to get jobs and save money so they can move elsewhere within two years. The two- and three-bedroom apartments come furnished, and the Floods have to pay $340 a month, which includes utilities.

"There's no other program in the Rogue Valley that will give you two years to turn your life around and get it set up right," said Flood, who is halfway through his education program with four terms left to go. He hopes to be working within two years.

"It really did seem like a Godsend," said Flood.

Several families already have applied for the new apartments and others can do so by filling out an application and meeting specific qualifications. Families must be homeless and living in Jackson County to qualify.

The Salvation Army has been working on the project since 1997, starting with the purchase of land next to the organization's existing transitional housing facility at 1065 Crews Road, known as the Hope House. The Hope House has provided transitional housing for individuals and families since 1996. But the program could handle only five families at a time, and each family had to live in one big room with no kitchen and share a bathroom with other residents.

In the new apartments, families will have 900- to 1,060-square-foot units with private bedrooms, kitchens and bathrooms.

Privacy provides families with a homelike environment as they learn the skills needed to transition into permanent housing. The Salvation Army even oversees a savings program to help families gain financial stability.

Vera Westbrook is a reporting intern for the Mail Tribune and can be reached at intern1@mailtribune.com.

Jennifer Flood, Raylee Flood, 2, and David Flood Jr. share a moment together at the Hope House, a transitional apartment complex in Medford run by the Salvation Army for homeless families. - Jamie Lusch