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Weather emergency opens shelter

Medford officials have declared a weather emergency tonight, allowing the opening of an overnight shelter as the valley braces for a winter storm.

Brian Sjothun, Medford city manager, declared the emergency Sunday, and the First Presbyterian Church at 85 South Holly Street, will be opening its doors for the homeless.

“Normally, we can have 50 people, but tonight, because of virus concerns, we’re going to do 40,” said Pastor Murray Richmond. “We placed the beds farther apart, and everybody who comes in will be required to thoroughly wash their hands.”

Volunteers will conduct a quick assessment of homeless people to determine if they are healthy. If anyone is sick, the church has one space available to keep the person segregated.

Medford’s emergency declaration is for Sunday night only and is called when the temperature is expected to be below 25 degrees Fahrenheit or 32 degrees Fahrenheit with additional factors such as rain or wind.

Richmond said the temperature is going to get down into the 30s tonight with rain.

Richmond said the church couldn’t find hand sanitizer, but health officials have indicated thoroughly washing hands with soap and water is just as effective at killing the coronavirus.

“We do have toilet paper,” Richmond said.

He said the church also couldn’t find temperature-testing devices.

After the homeless leave in the morning, the church will conduct a thorough cleaning of the shelter area to help stop the spread of any viruses.

First Presbyterian, like many churches in the area, canceled service on Sunday because of the pandemic.

Richmond said state health officials have recommended that older adults or high-risk populations not be in groups of 10 or more.

Cats temporarily living at a homeless shelter in Ashland earlier this year.{ }