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Cold-weather shelter opens for Christmas

An upcoming cold snap prompted Medford officials to declare a weather emergency and open a temporary homeless shelter starting Christmas Day.

ACCESS will operate the shelter at the Navigation Center, 685 Market St., from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 a.m. from Saturday to Monday.

Acting City Manager Kelly Madding declared a severe weather event based on projections from the National Weather Service and consultation with ACCESS, a Medford organization serving low-income families.

Winter storms are projected to move into the Pacific Northwest over the next seven days, bringing freezing temperatures, mountain and valley snow, and gusty winds, according to the Oregon Office of Emergency Management.

Volunteers are needed to help man the emergency shelter, requiring one lead person and three volunteers who run in four-hour shifts. A total of 12 people man the facility each night.

The volunteers hand out meals, blankets, water and offer other support operations. To help out, email volunteer@accesshelps.org or call 458-488-1242.

ACCESS and the city are trying to get the word out to homeless people through text notifications, website alerts and social media posts. Signs will be posted along the Bear Creek Greenway, as well.

To get notifications when the shelter is opened, text MED4SHELTERS to 888777.

Pets aren’t allowed at the shelter.

During the severe weather event the city won’t enforce a camping ban on the Greenway. Fires will continue to be prohibited throughout the city.

City officials and ACCESS will monitor weather projections to determine whether the shelter needs to be open longer, a step that would require having sufficient volunteers on hand during the holiday season.

This is the first winter season that ACCESS has operated the shelter, said Melanie Doshier, support services director.

The shelter already served 19 people Dec. 9, 25 people Dec. 13, 34 Dec. 14, and 38 people Dec. 15.

Doshier said Medford fire officials approved increasing the number of cots available to 50. Beds are provided on a first-come, first-served basis.

If someone arrives at the shelter and a bed is not available, space will be provided in the building to get warm, according to city officials.

ACCESS isn’t the only organization that helps run the shelter.

“We do have a plethora of community partners that provide services,” Doshier said.

The shelter doesn’t require drug testing to enter, but people are require to follow rules of behavior.

Doshier said volunteers will provide information about drug counseling and other services to people who come to the shelter.

“Everything is done on a case-by-case basis,” she said.

The Navigation Center will be remodeled by the city next year and be reopened as a year-round shelter housing about 100 people and operated by Rogue Retreat.

Rogue Retreat will move its existing shelter operations on Sixth Street to the new location.

ACCESS will then operate a severe weather shelter at the Sixth Street location.

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