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Medford cooling shelter opens Friday

Jamie Lusch / Mail Tribune The Medford Senior Center will serve as a cooling shelter over the weekend after the Medford city manager declared an extreme weather event.

Another heat wave is expected this weekend, triggering the opening of a cooling shelter for homeless residents and their pets from noon to 8 p.m. at the Medford Senior Center.

The shelter, which will offer food, water and popsicles, is scheduled to be open from Friday to Sunday, and possibly Monday if temperatures continue to hover around 100 degrees.

“We’re offering a cool place to come, have a meal and hydrate,” said Christine Quitt, chairwoman of the Jackson County Homeless Taskforce and a pastor at Faith Christian Center. “This offers a place for people who are vulnerable to the heat.”

Temperatures are expected to be over 100 Friday and Saturday, and are expected to stay in the high 90s through at least Tuesday.

This will be the third time the cooling shelter has opened this summer in Medford.

The cooling shelter, at 510 E. Main St., previously opened June 26 when temperatures topped 110 in Medford.

While the shelter mainly serves homeless people, Quitt said it is open to any member of the community.

“We’ve actually had a few elderly people come and get a lunch,” she said.

While the shelter can serve only 45 people at a time, Quitt said 78 people came through at various times the last time it was open.

“If we were at full capacity, we’re not going to turn them away,” she said. She said her volunteers would find other options to provide people who need heat relief.

The shelter has fairly rapid turnover, with some people coming in for a few minutes to get food or water. Others stay longer, sometimes resting after dealing with sweltering temperatures.

Quitt and a team of volunteers collaborate closely with the city of Medford to determine when to open the shelter.

City staff makes a recommendation to the city manager, who then declares a severe weather event. Temperatures have to hit an expected high of 102 before the shelter can open, and volunteers typically need up to 48 hours to mobilize.

Once the declaration is made, the city communicates with the Homeless Task Force, which allows the opening of the senior center as a cooling shelter.

Quitt said the task force continues to look for volunteers who can step in and help. For more information on becoming a volunteer, send an email to medfordemergencyshelter@gmail.com.

The Medford Senior Center has been closed, and on its website it states the closure is due to the age of the building and safety concerns about transients.

Seniors currently meet at the Santo Community Center in Medford, and the senior center is looking for a new location.

Because there is such a great need, Quitt suggests other organizations could also offer their buildings as a shelter.

“I would encourage churches and nonprofits to open spaces and let people cool off,” she said.

In the past, some local churches have offered space for a cooling or warming shelter.

Quitt said volunteers, working with the city, will continue to monitor the weather forecast to determine how long to keep the cooling shelter open.

“If we need to extend, we will,” she said.

Reach freelance writer Damian Mann at dmannnews@gmail.com.