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Repairs force monthlong closure

The holidays may seem like the worst time to temporarily close a homeless center for families, but St. Vincent de Paul of Medford says it's probably the best time to deal with needed repairs.

"There's really no good time to do it," said Dennis Mihocko, volunteer facilities manager at St. Vincent.

The 44-bed shelter at 2424 N. Pacific Highway will shut down from Dec. 5 to Jan. 5, but Mihocko said the holiday period, contrary to what many in the community might think, sees the lowest occupancy rates of the year.

The shelter houses only families, and Mihocko said many of them stay with other family or friends through the holidays.

St. Vincent has noticed severe moisture problems in the bathroom and laundry areas that require extensive investigation. Also, all the flooring needs to be replaced, as well.

"Until we get into the project, you don’t know exactly what you need to do," Mihocko said. 

The concrete floors will be checked for dampness, and some kind of moisture mitigation system will need to be installed, he said. Mihocko said the high water table at the shelter is the likely culprit for the moisture problem.

He pointed to flooring in both the men's and women's bathrooms that is bubbling up. As long as workers are tearing things up, Mihocko said other repairs, including a new cast-iron bathtub, will be installed.

The budget for the repairs is $80,000 to $100,000, helped by a sizable donation of $50,000 from Sacred Heart Catholic Church, said Rich Hansen, volunteer grant writer for St. Vincent.

"It was due for remodeling," he said. "The homeless shelter has been there for 10 years, and it's constantly occupied."

Hansen said St. Vincent has undertaken a number of remodeling projects recently and has received an outpouring of support from the community.

"We had a very successful year," he said.

The shelter opens at 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and has individual rooms with bunk beds so families can have some privacy.

St. Vincent has had a flurry of remodeling this year as it tries to meet the demands of the area's homeless population.

More than $200,000 was invested to double the size of an urban rest stop that provides showers and laundry facilities from 8 a.m. to noon Monday through Friday.

A restroom and shower for the disabled were added, along with more washing machines and dryers. With these improvements, St. Vincent can provide almost 50 showers a day. All the new equipment and bathroom facilities required an upgrade in the ventilation system as well.

Volunteers Lee and TC Meyers were busy folding laundry, carefully salvaging towels that were unraveling at the ends.

"We only throw them away when they get holes in them," TC said. "Right now we're just cutting the towels up and turning them into washcloths."

In another part of the building, the massive kitchen has been renovated and new flooring will be installed in the near future, Mihocko said.

St. Vincent relies on 300 volunteers to make things work.

Anyone interested in volunteering can contact Lee Meyers at 541-601-5273 or the volunteer coordinator at 541-772-3828, extension 7.

— Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or dmann@mailtribune.com. Follow him on www.twitter.com/reporterdm.

Facilities manager Dennis Mihocko shows a small kitchen that is part of a major renovation to the family homeless shelter at St. Vincent de Paul in Medford. Mail Tribune / Denise Baratta