GRANTS PASS – A large group of volunteers, city staff, city councilors, and service professionals gathered for a public forum at City Hall Wednesday, Oct. 9, to discuss the need for winter warming stations to provide temporary shelter to the homeless on cold nights in the winter. The overall consensus agreed that a community partnership of faith-based organizations, local churches, nonprofits, and volunteers is required to establish a viable solution.
“It’s a community problem,” said city council member Valerie Lovelace.
Lovelace was one of several city council members to attend the forum, which was presented in an informal format for information gathering purposes.
“The City (government) is not the solution, but the City wants to help. It takes more than the City,” said Lovelace.
The forum began with a presentation delivered by Parks and Community Development Director Lora Glover, who provided details about programs currently conducted in four neighboring cities. Surrounding local cities partner with volunteer organizations and faith-based groups to provide stations for homeless in need, the report revealed.
“It really takes a community partnership,” said Glover.
Glover conducted research and obtained information from the cities of Lebanon, Ashland, Medford, and Roseburg. In each city, a local church or collection of faith-based venues serve as the locations for temporary warming shelters when needed. It requires “pulling potential future partners together to create the program,” Glover said.
That was echoed by Kelly Wessels, chief operating officer of United Community Action Network (UCAN), who provided some details about programs she helped create in Douglas County working with faith-based organizations and other area providers.
“In Douglas County it required different points at different churches who were willing to step up,” said Wessels.
Wessels said her organization has funding to create a location that can be used as a warming station, but “we cannot find a building to lease.”
Local volunteers such as Nancy Yonally have been working on the effort to create a temporary warming station for nearly a year. Meetings on the topic began last November, she said. In their efforts, Yonally and others said they contacted as many as 22 local churches within Josephine County, and none would offer their location as a temporary venue.
Lovelace is also frustrated with the inaction.
“I keep hearing all of the talk, but when it comes down to it, nobody does anything,” said Lovelace. “I am honestly waiting for some people in the church to step up.”
Rev. Ernestine Flemister was one of the few clergy members in attendance. Flemister, who serves a rector at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, said that eager volunteers have not challenged churches enough.
“If you’re not having that conversation, then it’s not in front of you,” she said.
“This is not about confrontation. It’s about challenging people to live the faith they claim to follow,” said Flemister.
The Grants Pass City Council has plans to host a roundtable meeting in an effort to mobilize potential partners. City Manager Aaron Cubic will be issuing invitations to local pastors, church leaders, and nonprofit service providers to participate in the meeting and form a coordinated effort to address the issue.
“You have to start small, and then build upon success,” said Wessels.
Grants Pass Director of Parks and Community Development Lora Glover studied models for warming stations in four different area cities. Her findings were presented at a public forum at City Hall Wednesday, Oct. 9.
City of Lebanon partners with the First Christian Church. City supports the efforts of the church by providing assistance from a Community Service Officer.
Ashland warming center is operated Options for Helping Residents of Ashland (OHRA). Collaboration of 12 community organizations, and more than 200 volunteers operate a station that rotates between the venues of the participating organizations. City provides $10,000 per year to assist with staffing a fire watch.
Medford partners with Rogue Retreat, Compassion Highway Projects, and community volunteer. Methodist Church serves as the location. City provided support by making ordinance changes to accommodate use.
Roseburg’s “Dream Center,” is hosted by Foundation Fellowship Church. Funding is provided by private donations, United Community Action Network (UCAN), and faith-based organizations.