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Kelly Shelter retreat adds more beds

A homeless shelter in Medford celebrated its one-year anniversary Friday by increasing the number of beds from 54 to 64.

The Kelly Shelter, which moved into its current location on Sixth Street last year, has been able to put a roof over the heads of homeless people who lived on downtown streets or along the Bear Creek Greenway.

Rogue Retreat, the organization that runs the Kelly Shelter, is finishing up a remodel of the Sixth Street building to add the extra bunk beds.

“At this point, the Kelly Shelter is at max capacity,” said Matthew Vorderstrasse, program director for Rogue Retreat.

The shelter started in 2017 in the basement of First United Methodist Church, where people slept on mats. At first the shelter operated only for three winter months, but Rogue Retreat received permission from the city to operate year-round.

According to Medford police, there have been few issues with the shelter, and criminal activity in the downtown has declined.

ACCESS spent $1.2 million to purchase the Sixth Street building, and Rogue Retreat leases it for $2,015 per month.

Vorderstrasse said the shelter is the most cost-effective way to shelter people compared to other projects it has undertaken, including Hope Village and an urban campground off Biddle Road.

Once a vaccine for COVID-19 becomes widely available, Rogue Retreat plans to replicate the Kelly Shelter idea in other communities.

“We almost have a template that could be placed in any community,” he said.

The Kelly Shelter is manned 24/7, and case workers are assigned to guests to help them get back into society.

Vorderstrasse said opening a new facility with the pandemic still raging across Oregon is not possible.

He said the Kelly Shelter did have one scare when one of the homeless people became sick and was quarantined.

Vorderstrasse said he’s not sure whether the person actually had COVID, but he said no one else got sick.

“He was quarantined in a hotel room for a couple of weeks,” he said.

At the urban campground, Rogue Retreat has been replacing tents with tiny structures built by Pallet, a Washington-based company.

Pallet donated 10 of the 64-square-foot structures, and Rogue Retreat bought four more.

An anonymous donor gave Rogue Retreat a $34,000 grant to buy an additional five Pallet shelters. Rogue Retreat matched that by buying five more, which will bring the total to 24 Pallet shelters.

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

The Kelly Shelter in downtown Medford.Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune