Salvation Army gains on drive for shelters

With homelessness increasing from a lean economy, the Salvation Army hopes to finish a massive $3.1 million fund drive in two months and, by fall, begin erecting three buildings off Table Rock Road to house families trying to get back on their feet.

The Salvation Army in the past two years has raised $2.8 million toward its goal and plans to bring in $325,000, much of it from major private donors, in coming months to build the three structures, each of which will house four families, said Jackie Agee, the organization's spokewoman.

Homeless families now are housed in one big room at the Hope House site in north Medford, which started 12 years ago and handles five families. The average family size is 3.75 people. The program serves 20 families a year. After the new units are built, the Salvation Army will be able to serve 44.

The Salvation Army provides families with constant oversight and counseling, helping them get employment and teaching them how to save, rebuild credit, work through issues with courts and get off alcohol and drugs. Almost all families in the program have issues with alcohol and drug addiction.

"We're seeing more and more people in that position because of the economy," said Agee, noting that there's a waiting list of six to 12 families — and by the time their turn comes up, many have made an effort to improve their chances of finding work.

Because of the recession, it's hard to tell how difficult it will be to raise the remaining money, she said.

"The need is there. We're the only transition shelter of this type in Jackson County — and people can stay up to two years," Agee said.

When shelter residents get work, they pay $85 a week rent and have to save money, which will eventually qualify them for their own housing, she said. For families who went into the program two years ago, 76 percent found stable, long-term work, 75 percent were alcohol- and drug-free when they left, and all of them saved money.

To donate to the fund drive, telephone Agee at 773-6965 or e-mail her at jacquelyn.agee@usw.salvationarmy.org.

John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. E-mail him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.

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