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Caring combination

When you’re living on the streets, it’s tough to find a secure place for your belongings.

“I wouldn’t have all this stuff if I didn’t have this locker,” said Mike Page, a 67-year-old man who’s been living outdoors in the Medford area.

Page and other homeless people have found a safe place to store their medications, sleeping bags and other belongings at St. Vincent de Paul’s new storage locker building, filled with 46 donated Department of Defense-rated lockers, sometimes referred to as Desert Storm lockers.

Page got locker No. 1, and some 15 people have signed up for the roughly 3-by-2-foot plastic storage containers.

“I would expect that all the lockers will be filled over the next month,” said Rich Hansen with St. Vincent.

Hansen and others said they’ve heard many stories of homeless people losing their belongings because they had nowhere to store them. Some homeless people who utilize St. Vincent have complained their tents or sleeping bags had been stolen.

“Theft is what triggered this place,” Hansen said. “This provides a safe, dry place to store their stuff.”

A metal storage building was erected behind St. Vincent’s facility at 2424 N. Pacific Highway for $60,000 using grants provided by the St. Augustine Foundation in San Diego, California, and the Oregon Community Foundation. Medford Fabrication built the steel racks that support the lockers. The building is locked after hours and is equipped with security cameras.

The homeless people don’t have to pay anything for the storage, but they have to provide their own locks. St. Vincent has bolt cutters on hand in case a key is lost.

Hansen said he assumed that homeless people might stop by their storage locker a few times a week. But the other day, one man told Hansen he stops by three times a day to take his prescription medications.

St. Vincent offers a number of services, including clothing, showers and meals.

Kathy Begley, president of St. Vincent de Paul, said it’s difficult for homeless people to carry all of their belongings with them all the time.

“This stuff is just as important to them as my stuff at home is to me,” she said.

The lockers also provide a place for people to store things when they go to work or are looking for a job, Begley said.

She said she hopes the lockers will provide homeless individuals with an additional incentive to help them regain their footing in the community.

St. Vincent does have a few rules that people must follow if they are using the lockers.

The lockers cannot contain flammable items, explosives, propane tanks, solvents, gas, gas-powered equipment, alcohol, illegal drugs or weapons, including knives.

St. Vincent will open a locker if a violation is suspected, and the organization isn’t responsible for the items inside the locker.

The building is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Saturday.

Urinating or defecating around or near the building will result in loss of privileges.

Brian Stevens, a 45-year-old Medford man, said he first saw lockers for the homeless at another St. Vincent de Paul facility when he was living on the streets in San Diego, California, in 2000.

He said he’s got a job working in a kitchen and hopes to be living in a motel soon.

In the meantime, he’s been keeping his belongings in one of the new lockers.

“Before, I had to carry all my stuff when I went for a job interview,” he said.

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

Jamie Lusch / Mail Tribune Mike Page, 67, a homeless man living in Medford, uses lockers to store his belongings at the St. Vincent de Paul in Medford.