All in a winter's work
A homeless shelter in downtown Medford celebrated its last night in operation Sunday, remaining relatively trouble-free for Medford police this winter while reducing vagrancy and vandalism issues in the surrounding area.
“Even the numbers of complaints in the downtown are looking better,” said Medford police Deputy Chief Scott Clauson.
After a rocky first year in operation in 2017, the shelter improved markedly in 2018, and the City Council allowed the Kelly Shelter to open for four months this winter season instead of the three months previously.
Sunday was the final day of operation for the shelter, located in the basement of First United Methodist Church, , 607 W. Main St., but homeless advocates are working on a year-round shelter operation at possibly another downtown location.
Clauson said his department received 31 calls for service over the past four months, compared to 119 in a three-month period in 2017 and 23 in 2018, also for three months.
“This is definitely another successful year,” Clauson said. “It’s just about having the right people organizing it and monitoring it,” he said.
February had the most calls for service at 11, but March had only five, he said.
The calls for service were for disorderly conduct, a theft, medical treatment, suspicious activity and setting off business alarms.
Each night, up to 50 homeless people sleep in the shelter. During the day, homeless people go to another location in Medford or Phoenix, which limits the impact on the downtown area.
This year, the shelter housed 141 homeless people at various times over the four months, and it secured more permanent housing for 25. Several homeless people spent the full four months at the shelter.
Jennifer Covarrubias, a peer support specialist with Rogue Retreat, said case workers work closely with the shelter visitors, lining them up with medical help, social security and mental health services.
“We didn’t have many problems at all this year,” she said. We just tried to focus on well-rounded health as well as housing them.” One man even got dental care for the first time in his life.
This year, the shelter saw more older people looking for a place to stay warm.
Compared to the first year, Rogue Retreat has a more effective screening process to weed out those with a history of disorderly conduct.
Chad McComas, executive director of Rogue Retreat, said one man had to leave the shelter after his dog bit another person.
“There are people who just can’t play well in the sandbox,” he said.
Rogue Retreat is hoping to open a year-round shelter to offer a more long-term solution to help homeless people get back on their feet.
Rogue Retreat is working with ACCESS Inc. on the new shelter project.
Pam Noor, executive director at ACCESS, said her organization is looking at a building in the downtown area that could be converted into a shelter, though her organization is still conducting its due diligence before the purchase.
“We would have an understanding in the lease with Rogue Retreat to run the shelter,” she said.