Washington Fed Makes $2000 Grant to OHRA

Candace Selden (second from right), branch manager of Washington Federal's Ashland branch presents a check to Leigh Madsen, ACRC director. Others, from left, are Patty Surowski, vice president and Southern Oregon Division manager of Washington Federal, John Wieczorcek, OHRA board president, and Brian Ogle, Small Business Banker officer of Washington Federal.

Candace Selden (second from right), Branch Manager of Washington Federal’s Ashland branch presents a check to Leigh Madsen, ACRC director. Others, from left, are Patty Surowski, Vice President and Southern Oregon Division Manager of Washington Federal, John Wieczorcek, OHRA Board President, and Brian Ogle, Small Business Banker Officer of Washington Federal.

How Does It Feel To Be Homeless?

A hearty band of individuals found out on Nov. 7 when they participated in the annual OHRA fundraising campaign. This consists of volunteers collecting donation pledges from those who are willing to donate to OHRA on behalf of the brave volunteer who spends a night in the November cold, sheltered, at most, by a sleeping bag and/or tent. Heidi Parker, was one of those who camped out this year. As Volunteer Coordinator for the Ashland Winter Homeless and Emergency Shelters, Heidi is familiar with the plight of those with no permanent roof over their head. Yet, this experience gave her fresh insights on the most vulnerable among us. The following are excerpts of her reflections on being homeless for just one night.

“A small band of fellow community volunteers milled about, most setting up little tents or tarps and spreading out warm sleeping bags in preparation for the long night ahead…As it grew colder, different opinions on how to best get the circulation going to one’s feet were offered, followed by a flurry of brisk walking and jumping jacks…Time passed slowly. I had to leave the group briefly to put on another layer of warm socks, but then found out that I couldn’t get my shoes back on with two pairs of thick socks…I thought often of my homeless friends, and how much planning has to go into survival while living outside, without drawing attention to the fact that you’re there; hide your tarp or tent, no fires, shoes that are big enough to fit 2 pairs of socks, staying warm, dry, AND being able to carry it all around on your back during the day or risk having your stuff stolen.

“I slept fitfully, increasingly wet and cold. I reflected on a conversation I had had earlier with an affable young, homeless man who had referred to the fact that people sometimes responded to him with suspicion, as if they thought he was going to kill them. With all the mass shootings recently by seemingly nice, quiet, housed men, I pondered how do we draw the line between who is stable and who, mentally ill? I was reassured that at our encampment we had a couple of big, tough guys providing security for the night. Many of the women who stay in our shelters express gratitude for a peaceful night’s sleep, fiercely warning the men at the shelters to ‘Keep away from me.’ It took on new meaning for me now that I was experiencing a similar vulnerability that comes from being alone and outside in an unpredictable world. The huge difference was that I had safeguards in place that most homeless women don’t have, and yet interestingly, I still felt vulnerable.

“Most of the campers were up at first light…The experience of taking down my soggy, wet tent in the pouring rain made me so thankful for my warm, dry home, and also mindful of the fact that too many people of all ages in our community have no home or permanent shelter to turn to. I have a new understanding of why the homeless often say little, keep the sweatshirt hoods covering their heads, and realize how easy it is to view the world with paranoia; all this after just one night spent in quasi-homelessness.

“This memorable experience has given me new insights and given rise to more than a few questions. In a civilized society, shelter should be a basic necessity for every man, woman, and child. A more urgent questions is: Why isn’t it a priority in ours?”

Rotary Grant Keeps ACRC Shower Trailer Rolling

ACRC Manager Leigh Madsen invites delighted guest to take his first shower in the shower laundry trailer

ACRC Manager Leigh Madsen invites delighted guest to take his first shower in the shower laundry trailer

The Ashland Community Resource Center thanks the Ashland Rotary Club for a grant of $4000, which is being used for maintenance and operation of its traveling shower trailer over the next two years.

“This grant is fantastic,” said Leigh Madsen, ACRC manager. “ACRC owns the trailer, but like any vehicle or shower it requires maintenance to say nothing of soap, cleaning supplies and towels to keep working. ACRC and its guests are grateful for the Rotary Club’s generosity and their support of a most basic human need — cleanliness.”

Staffed by ACRC volunteers, the trailer is available from 1 to 3:30 p.m. on Tuesdays at the United Methodist Church at the corner of Laurel and Main and on Thursdays from 1:30 to 4:15 p.m. at the Ashland Emergency Food Bank next to the ACRC on Clover Lane.

“If you are homeless, a shower can make an amazing difference in your health, your outlook and your ability to tackle whatever you need to tackle to survive and get back on your feet. Our guests glow when they come out – and it is not just because of the soap and water,” explained Madsen. ACRC also offers access to clothes washers and dryers, so that its guests can put clean clothes on their clean bodies. Both are essentials, Madsen pointed out, for successful job interviews.

The showers are just one service of ACRC, a joint project of Options for Homeless Residents of Ashland and ACCESS, the Community Action Agency for Jackson County. ACRC helps those who are homeless or at risk with emergency assistance as well as other tools that pave the way toward financial stability and housing.   ACRC was launched by a two-year $100,000 grant from the City of Ashland in late 2013 and opened its doors in February 2014. The showers went operational a year ago.