As temperatures hit freezing, year-round shelter eyes opening

MEDFORD, Ore. — Local homeless are preparing for a bitter, cold night on the streets.

Medford Gospel Mission and Salvation Army have shelters that are open. There’s also St. Vincent de Paul for families and Hearts with a Mission for minors under 18.

However, more help is coming.

The new and improved Kelly Shelter hopes to open its doors by the end of this year in downtown Medford.

“If somebody falls in the well at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter why they fell into the well… what matters is they need help getting out,” said Matthew Vorderstrasse, Rogue Retreat.

For Medford non-profit Rogue Retreat, getting someone off the streets is a community effort.

“It could have been addiction, it could have been mental illness, it could have been their rents were raised and they couldn’t afford it anymore,” said Vorderstrasse. “What matters is it takes a community to surround them to give them the support to come out of it.”

“A lot of times the homeless are so worn out just trying to survive… that they can’t even begin to deal with the issues of what’s going to happen tomorrow. How am I going to get out of this,” said Chad McComas, Executive Director of Rogue Retreat.

It’s teamed up with another local organization tackling homelessness, Access, to open a year-round shelter in downtown Medford.

“I think that until we have affordable and available housing, we need to find a way to get people off the street and a shelter is a first step in that,” said Pamela Norr, Executive Officer of Access.

Norr says there’s an increased need for housing for the homeless in Jackson County.

A recent count by the Jackson County Continuum of Care showed 1 in 4 are considered chronically homeless. 37 percent of the homeless were living unsheltered, that’s places like vehicles or tents.

“It’s getting people with a roof over their heads so they can focus on getting a job and having a shower and a bathroom and safety and security and food and then they can work on getting a more permanent housing situation,” Norr said.

She says getting the new shelter ready to open its doors has cost well over a million dollars.

It will have bunk beds, lockers, washers and dryers, and even showers, all the new features aimed at providing extra security and comfort.

“You know, part of this is providing dignity to those in need,” she said. “And part of that is having a bed… having a place to be.”

But for both organizations, it’s about more than just putting a roof over someone’s head.

Rogue Retreat says they haven’t placed a time limit on how long someone can stay.

“For some folks… they might already have a job and they may only need a little stabilization to move forward,” said Vorderstrasse. “But for other folks, they may have severe disabilities [and] it’s going to take a little bit longer.”

Unlike some shelters, there won’t be restrictions on sobriety before checking in.

“In order to get them in the door and help stabilize them, we take away that barrier requirement,” he said.

The organization’s end goal is simple, to get someone the right help they need to move forward and change their life.

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