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Ashland launches homeless help center

The launch of a center to help homeless people and others in need is a dream come true, say dozens of people who attended a Thursday open house for the new Ashland Community Resource Center.

The center will officially begin helping people on Tuesday. Its hours will be from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.

But community members who have long had an interest in helping the homeless and others in need got an early look at the center, which is at 570 B Clover Lane in part of the Ashland Masonic Center near Exit 14.

"We're going to be a great resource," said Leigh Madsen, who is serving as the center's part-time manager.

ACCESS Inc., a long-established Medford social services organization, teamed up with the grassroots group Options for Homeless Residents of Ashland to run the center.

The Ashland City Council approved a $100,000 grant spread out over two years to help finance the venture.

"It's wonderful. It's a dream come true," said Councilor Carol Voisin as she surveyed the crowd that gathered to celebrate the center's launch.

ACCESS and OHRA are teaming up with other social service organizations to provide one-stop shopping for people who would otherwise have to travel all around the Rogue Valley for help.

People coming in off the streets may need anything from a blanket to help getting housing, mental health care or substance abuse treatment.

ACCESS Support Services Director David Mulig said ACCESS follows a "housing first" model when it comes to helping people.

Once they are no longer worried about the day-to-day struggle of life on the streets, homeless people can stabilize their lives and start working on the issues that make it difficult to find employment or housing, Mulig said.

However, there is not enough housing available locally, he said.

Mulig said ACCESS is always looking for landlords or property managers who would be willing to work with the organization to house those in need.

ACCESS has a Ready to Rent program that teaches clients how to become responsible renters. With a certificate of program completion in hand, a graduate is better able to find housing, Mulig said.

ACCESS can provide funding to help meet deposit and rent payments, he said.

Other services at the center will include computer and Internet access, help with resumés, case management, restrooms, use of a mailing address, hygiene supplies, bus passes, service referrals and more. The center is located across a parking lot from the Ashland Emergency Food Bank.

"Ashland's been really wanting something like this for a long time," Mulig said. "It has to succeed. Too many people care."

To keep the center operating into the future, organizers will have to raise additional money to supplement the $100,000 city grant.

People who visited the center on Thursday also got to see a mobile shower and laundry trailer that likely will begin operating at the food bank, an Ashland church and The Grove in mid-March. The trailer was parked outside the center.

An individual donated $17,000 to buy and refurbish the shower trailer, which was designed for use by wildland firefighters out in the forest, Madsen said.

Another individual stepped forward with a $2,000 donation to buy an SUV to pull the trailer around, he said.

The unit features hot water heaters, two showers, two washers, two dryers and several sinks.

A previous survey of homeless people in Ashland found that they named jobs as their top need, followed by showers.

Madsen said it's extremely difficult for a person who hasn't showered in two weeks to land a job.

"Can you imagine how hard it would be?" he asked.

Ashland resident Sangye Tendzin, who used to be homeless, was giving tours of the shower unit.

He said he knows what it's like to go a month without a shower.

Tendzin now has a home and has been volunteering for years to help people in need.

He said people who need help will be able to find it at the Ashland Community Resource Center.

"Going in there, you'll find angels," Tendzin said.

The center will be staffed almost entirely by volunteers, except for its part-time manager and representatives from social services organizations who will visit the center.

Volunteer Coordinator Regina Ayars said people can volunteer for as few or as many hours as they wish.

For information on donating, volunteering and to get volunteer application and release forms, visit www.homelessoptions.org.

Mail completed volunteer application forms to Ashland Community Resource Center, 570 B Clover Lane, Ashland, OR 97520.

People who wish to volunteer can also visit the center for more information.

Property owners or managers who would like more information on renting to at-risk or homeless people can call Mulig at 541-774-4313.

Staff reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-479-8199 or vlaldous@yahoo.com. Follow her at www.twitter.com/VickieAldous.