Homeless shelter temporarily shuttered

    The Kelly Warming Shelter was temporarily closed by the city of Medford Friday, just four weeks after it opened.

    Overcrowding, not enough manpower and lack of a fire plan were among issues cited by city officials, according to organizers.

    "We actually had a good meeting with city authorities and we completely understand that they're just doing their job," said Chad McComas, pastor at Set Free Fellowship and executive director of Rogue Retreat, among the groups helping run the shelter. "We'll reopen Tuesday. It all just will depend on some things we need to put in place, but we'll have it figured out by then."

    Nearly 80 homeless people relied on the shelter in the basement of First United Methodist Church, 607 W. Main St., organizers said. After the closure, some of the clients were cited for camping near the church property and face hefty fines. The sponsoring organizations pay the Methodist Church $2,000 a month in rent for the space, McComas said.

    "Our hope is to work closely with the city so that we can have a shelter for years to come instead of just fighting for one more night," McComas said. "The biggest piece that's hurt us financially is that this is a three-story building and we're in the basement. Since the two stories above us aren't sprinkled (fitted with fire sprinklers), we have to have a night fire watch, which costs $125 a night."

    The shelter was opened by Rogue Retreat and Compassion Highway Project on Jan. 13, just days after the one-year anniversary of the death of Marine Corps veteran Kelly Eisenberg, who was found frozen to death in a horseshoe pit in Hawthorne Park.

    City officials adopted a "temporary shelter policy," allowing some leniency for temporary shelter operations that provide a warm place for "up to 90 days" per calendar year.

    City officials were not immediately available on Monday for comment, and First United Methodist Church officials declined to comment to the Mail Tribune.

    McComas said a meeting with city fire and police officials Monday focused on getting the shelter back into compliance and came with an agreement to reduce maximum shelter capacity from 75 to 50. McComas said plans were to reopen Tuesday if city officials give the nod of approval before the shelter's 7 p.m. opening time.

    McComas said a lack of volunteer labor resulted in some homeless patrons of the facility being left to provide manpower.

    Melissa Mayne, founder of Compassion Highway Project who initiated plans for the warming shelter, said she was saddened by the four nights the shelter was shuttered. Mayne and her volunteers spent those four nights serving hot food and passing out supplies to help the homeless endure the cold.

    "It's heartbreaking, even for one night, because a lot of them are sick right now. One night more in the cold is just so much harder on them," Mayne said.

    "I do understand safety concerns — I get all that — but it's so hard as a human being to see somebody suffering."

    McComas said donations of personal toiletries, toilet paper, paper towels, plastic forks, napkins and single-use sugar and creamer packets would be helpful for the shelter efforts in addition to donations toward shelter operations and volunteer sign-ups.

    Donations can be dropped off at Rogue Retreat offices, 1419 W. Eighth St,, between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.

    To donate to meal efforts by Compassion Highway, deposits can be made to the Compassion Highway Project account at any Rogue Federal Credit Union branch.

    — Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. Email her at buffyp76@yahoo.com.

    News In Photos: "Happening Now"

      Loading ...