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Ashland winter shelter finally has one site

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For the first time, the Ashland winter homeless shelter has a single location seven nights a week.

After a lengthy search for a location and an extensive process to attain a permit through the county, Options for Helping Residents of Ashland finally procured a permit and lease for the next three years at 2082 E. Main St., in the old Rogue Valley Church.

The shelter will open Friday, Nov. 1, and stay open every night through March 30, OHRA Director Michelle Arellano said.

Staff, volunteers and guests will be relieved to have the shelter in the same place every night. In past years, the shelter operated only on certain nights when space was available.

“Having the shelter be in one location is going to be so powerful, and having 45 beds this year is going to really make an impact too, because we’re able to help more people,” Arellano said. “I get overwhelmed when I have to go to the DMV. I can’t imagine someone who doesn’t have a bed or food in their stomach, how they get to that next step.”

Last winter, four churches volunteered space to operate the shelter every night of the week for the first time. However, that meant volunteers were needed to clean up the spaces and move cots, and the times varied each day.

According to OHRA President Ken Gudger, the shelter will operate from 7:30 p.m. to 7:30 a.m., with much more flexibility than in the past. Plus, it will save a lot of time and resources by not having to relocate.

The shelter is modeled very closely to the Kelly Shelter in Medford. Guests can apply at the Ashland Community Resource Center for a bed by walking in between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. Monday through Friday at 611 Siskiyou Blvd., next to Safeway.

During the application process, guests are ranked on their vulnerability, and beds are given to those determined to be in the most need, so there’s no rush to get in line, Arellano said, emphasizing that it’s not a first-come, first-served model.

Once someone has a bed, they have it for the full season or until they find housing. Although the winter shelter is a no-barrier shelter, meaning guests don’t have to be sober when they come in, they can lose their bed if they don’t follow the rules. Guests can also lose their bed if they don’t show up or call for two nights.

The Kelly Shelter in Medford has operated this way in the past but will be transitioning to a year-round shelter once it opens around Nov. 18.

“The most significant thing you can do for a homeless person is give them a home,” Gudger said. “Even if they’re addicted to something, give them a home and that’s the first step in recovery.”

OHRA has a full-time case manager, or navigator, to help each person in the shelter move from “crisis to stability.” The navigator will work with individuals on whatever they need, whether that’s attaining a birth certificate so they can get a proper ID or helping them find a job and housing.

“The other part of having the one site is the case management,” Arellano said. “The impact that had on people last season was phenomenal.”

She said the chronically unhoused often do not trust easily, so having consistency in people working with them, be it the case manager or volunteers, makes a big difference.

Last winter the Ashland winter shelter helped 19 people find housing, 45 people secure health care, 17 people find temporary or permanent work, 33 people apply for subsidized housing and 55 people apply for food assistance.

All that was with only 34 beds. In the new space they’ll have 45 beds.

A senior citizen guest last winter who is disabled and has been unhoused for more than a decade recently found housing, Arellano said, adding that case management continues past the end of the winter shelter.

Last year ACRC screened 135 homeless people between the ages of 17 and 77, and 99 people were granted reservations.

Gudger said people usually sign up for multiple shelters at once, so some people were granted space in Ashland but had already been helped by the time they were approved.

Because the shelter location in Ashland isn’t very centralized, OHRA has purchased a small bus and a van to pick up and drop off people.

The Lions Club has built a smoke shack that can be easily taken down in the off season but should keep cigarette butts from finding their way into the field behind the building.

The shelter has a small kitchen where food can be warmed and served. Trinity Episcopal Church has donated a refrigerator, stove and volunteer time repairing parts of the building.

“It’s incredibly powerful that the community has stepped up to make this happen,” Arellano said.

The building has multiple restrooms and “break out” rooms where guests can take a break from everyone else if they need to.

Volunteers are needed to help serve food, listen to guests and stay the night.

“It really does take a village,” Arellano said.

A volunteer orientation is scheduled for 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 10, in Wesley Hall at First United Methodist Church, 175 N. Main St.

Arellano said the orientation will be a way for people to learn more, and if they want to sign up there, they can. Sen. Jeff Golden will speak at the orientation.

For more information and to RSVP to the orientation, email Arellano at executivedirector@helpingashland.org.

Contact Tidings reporter Caitlin Fowlkes at cfowlkes@rosebudmedia.com or 541-776-4496. Follow her on Twitter @cfowlkes6.

Jamie Lusch / Ashland Tidings Michelle Arellano, director of Options for Helping Residents of Ashland, tours the new winter shelter location at the old Rogue Valley Church.
Options for Helping Residents of Ashland Director Michelle Arellano talks about the new Ashland winter shelter location opening soon.{ }Ashland Tidings / Caitlin FowlkesThumbnail