Kelly Shelter opens for all seasons
A Medford program that’s sheltered homeless people for the past three winters has a permanent home and permanent beds.
Following months of preparations, the Kelly Shelter will open its doors to 54 people Thursday morning at its new location in downtown Medford, kicking off the next stage in the Rogue Retreat program’s evolution into a year-round homeless rehabilitation center.
According to Rogue Retreat Executive Director Chad McComas, the 27 bunk beds inside the 3,360-square-foot Fehl Building, at 332 W. Sixth St., is a dramatic departure from the program’s roots nearly three years ago as an emergency warming shelter in the basement of First United Methodist Church that handed out mats to homeless people.
McComas described the 27 bunk beds as an adjustment for some of the residents selected to stay at the shelter.
“I don’t think the people are going to know how to live with actual beds,” McComas said at a media event Wednesday. “This is really a step up.”
McComas said the new building offers amenities the Kelly Shelter never had, such as three showers — including one ADA-accessible roll-in shower — along with a kitchen area, a bank of washers and dryers so residents can do laundry, and offices for staff members who will remain on site at all hours.
ACCESS spent $1.2 million to purchase the historic building and bring it up to the latest earthquake codes. Rogue Retreat will lease the building for $2,015 per month.
According to McComas, the Kelly Shelter goes beyond just providing a roof by providing case management services.
“We don’t want to just warehouse people,” McComas said. “We want to make sure we help them not stay homeless.”
Toward that end, the Kelly Shelter will have offices for the homeless outreach program Jackson County Continuum of Care, staff focused on veterans outreach, as well as Foundations for Recovery.
Medford police Chief Scott Clauson said he believes the 54 beds will make an impact for the Medford area’s “chronically homeless,” who he described as people with no place to stay other than the streets.
In September, the Medford Police Department’s homelessness outreach Livability Unit counted 200 camps along Medford’s section of the Bear Creek Greenway and encountered 100 active campers.
“Fifty-four beds can cut that population down really quickly,” Clauson said.
Officers already regularly patrol the downtown area, but Clauson said they will add extra patrols near the shelter and work with the nonprofit if issues arise in the new location. Clauson said the Kelly Shelter’s first winter in January 2017 was rocky, but McComas has “listened to our needs over the past few years.”
“From my perspective, this is a true need,” Clauson said.
Beyond the shelter, Clauson said he holds regular Chronically Homeless Outreach Partnership or "CHOP" meetings with organizations that include ACCESS, Rogue Recovery, Jackson County Mental Health, Addictions Recovery Center and Medford Parks & Recreation.
Each month police and the organizations discuss ways to help keep 10 chronically homeless individuals out of jail or the emergency room.
“Neither place is the right venue,” Clauson said.
According to Rogue Retreat Program Director Liz Adams, the new shelter has far more structure than in the winter of 2017, when the shelter had homeless people lined up near a church to secure a space at the shelter.
Adams said one underlying issue was having unpaid volunteers who inconsistently enforced rules. Since then, Rogue Retreat has implemented paid staff and a screening and application process that occurs off-site.
Similar to Rogue Retreat’s Hope Village — which houses homeless in 15 tiny duplexes — McComas said the Kelly Shelter won’t have any resources for walk-ins, meaning there won’t be reason for people to congregate.
Adams and multiple peer support specialists — individuals recovering from life on the streets themselves — have training in CPR and trauma informed care, allowing them to step in and help in a wide variety of situations.
Adams said she’s grateful to have the program up and running.
“It’s been such a long journey,” Adams said. “It’s such a relief to see it all together.”