October 22, 2012
Ad-Hoc Homelessness Steering Committee
4:00 - 6:00 p.m.
Parker, Saldana, O’Bryon, Sohl, Rohde, Lewis, Reid (Staff)
Father Anthony Hutchinson, Ruth Coulthard, Barbi Breneiser, Corrianne Mathews, P.J. Meier, John Wieczorek
1.) Agenda Item #1: Call to Order
Rohde called the meeting to order at 4:15 p.m.
2.) Open and Welcome
Rohde opened the meeting and provided introductions
3.) Brief recap of how the HSC started and its accomplishments
Lewis provided a brief history of the HSC, highlighting the committee’s accomplishments. Lewis also announced that the re-engineered donation boxes would be re-installed after Halloween.
4.) Presentation on Winter Shelter
Ruth Coulthard and Barbi Breneiser gave a presentation on the history of the winter shelter program that they originally organized and continue to organize and run. The first winter shelter started in January of 2007. The shelter originally rotated between the UCC church, the Unitarian Church and the Presbyterian Church. Due to the difficulties of notifying people of the opening of a cold weather shelter due to severe weather conditions and the difficulty of finding volunteers on such short notice; the organizers decided to host a regularly held Sunday night shelter and limited the location to the Presbyterian Church because it had the most functional building for shelter purposes. When an emergency cold weather shelter night is called for and the Presbyterian Church building is not available, shelter organizers will find another space, either with one of the churches (the preferred option) or in a City Parks building. City buildings are used as a last resort because they have additional rules (background checks for volunteers and separation of men and women). The rules make it more difficult to find volunteers. Most of the volunteers come from other church’s congregations (not just the Presbyterian congregation). The Unitarian Church has often taken up special collections to assist shelter organizers in purchasing sleeping bags and other shelter resources. Coulthard stated that she has witnessed some of the transient homeless migrating to warmer climes, and feels that now that the weather has turned the City will see many more migrate out of town or return home as they realize that they are not equipped to survive in these weather conditions. The shelter that Coulthard and Breneiser organize is “No Frills”. Shelter users are encouraged to bring their own bedding and arrive before nine P.M. when the doors will be locked. There are some blankets for those who have no bedding. Volunteers will heat up food items (not cook) that shelter users bring, or try to provide hot food that can be heated up, because that is the best way to warm up cold bodies, homeless populations often don’t have access to hot food. Senior Sam’s will provide leftover rice and beans and many of the shelter users have food stamps and can bring things like Pizza or other foods which can be shared. A small percentage of homeless people utilize the shelters. On average the shelter nights were utilized by 14 people a night in 2012, though there were two nights where there were over twenty people. Last shelter cycle (November 2011-April 2012) there were six emergency shelter nights where the temperature was 20 degrees or below in addition to the regular Sunday night shelters. Coulthard and Breneiser have a core group of volunteers, generally two to three volunteers staff a shelter. They try to always have at least one male. Volunteers sleep on the floor with the homeless, in an effort not set themselves above the homeless.
Father Tony suggested getting together with Coulthard and Breneiser to coordinate volunteer efforts. As part of the discussion Wieczorek announced that the Unitarian church is currently considering hosting a weekly shelter. Scheduling is an issue especially on emergency cold weather shelter nights. Breneiser and Coulthard are considering changing the date of the weekly shelter at the Presbyterian Church as a scheduling conflict with the new custodian has arisen.
Breneiser, Coulthard, Wieczorek will get together and talk about options for weekly shelter nights to coordinate between the Unitarian Church and the Presbyterian Church.
Shelter volunteers will provide resource referrals for those in need, or for high risk homeless such as families with children or seniors, the volunteers will work to assist them in getting their most immediate needs met. Sometimes that is finding them temporary shelter through a church or individual until a more traditional resource can be accessed. Sometimes that is finding temporary work for them to make some money. For these resources the volunteers traditionally have turned solely to the churches and their congregations. The new Open Table project that is starting up should be a good resource for these types of situations. Coulthard stressed that transitional housing is an important piece that is missing in meeting the needs of these high risk homeless populations. Shelter organizers also felt that the police could take a more active role in directing people to emergency cold weather shelters when they are open, since police officers often have more opportunities to interface with homeless populations than the general population. Reid stated that City staff would be willing to post notices on City buildings when cold weather shelters are activated. Similarly a city-wide e-mail can be sent out to notify all city staff of where and when the shelters will take place. Then emergency responders such as police and fire would be aware. O’Bryon mentioned that now that the HSC has compiled an e-mail contact list of Faith Based Organizations, that they could be included in e-mail notifications about emergency shelters. Father Tony suggested using texting as a way to send out mass alerts about emergency shelters. Lastly, Reid suggested utilizing the new 211 system, not only for the new regular shelter nights that are coming on-line but also for emergency cold weather shelter. Reid does not at this time know the process for updating 211 on resources. At the November Homeless Task Force meeting, which will be held the 20th
, there will be a presentation on updating the 211 database when changes occur.
5.) Volunteer Coordination & Training
Parker volunteered to coordinate the volunteer and training activities. Parker asked the group if they had any ideas about training. Reid spoke about emergency mental health training for frontline staff and shelter volunteers that the Mental Health Sub-committee of the Jackson County Homeless Task Force is developing. The training will be how on to deal with and diffuse individuals experiencing crisis due to mental health issues in a shelter or office setting. This training will be different than the NAMI mental health training that Fredric Berger has been trained to provide. The training is expected to be ready in February and after an initial trial training session with the Task Force members, the Mental Health sub-committee may open it up to the general population. It was suggested that a shelter volunteer training could be offered to bring people together who might be interested in volunteering at a shelter and create a volunteer list. Guest P.J. Meier volunteered to work with Parker on the shelter training. Reid mentioned the resource and volunteer database that ICCA used to have. She wondered where it was now and it the new non-profit OARA would be willing to take on the update and maintenance of that list and act as volunteer coordinator for the regular and emergency shelters. Wieczorek stated that OARA is already working on updating the old ICCA resource list.
Sohl pulled together a list of next steps.
Identify specifics of what could be included in a training.
It was suggested that representatives from the churches already participating in shelter activities form a delegation to conduct outreach to the other congregations. Ruth suggested that the UCC church be included in the delegation along with the Presbyterian Church, the Unitarian Church, and Trinity Episcopal.
Lewis suggested that the delegations go to different services around town and ask to make an announcement about the need for shelter volunteers and resources and have a sign-up sheet for those who are interested.
Joint Press release (potential title: Culture of Caring) about the regular winter shelter nights available through the various churches, a call for volunteers and resources and to announce the training for shelter volunteers. Father Tony offered to draft a press release and work with Coulthard, Breneiser, Wieczorek, and Parker on the details and final draft.
It was proposed that there might be an opportunity to facilitate interfaith movement throughout the community if a community discussion about the shelter issue could be on the agenda at the annual interfaith thanksgiving service held at the Methodist Church.
What are the resources for training?
Mental Health piece-Contact Fred Berger and Lisa Bailey
General Host routine and duties-Coulthard and Breneiser
Rohde suggested that the guests return for the next regular HSC meeting which will be held on November 14th
from 4:00-6:00 at the Ashland Library to get the plan together, finalize the press release, and organize a training schedule.
Father Tony announced that Trinity Episcopal Church will be hosting a weekly shelter on Wednesday night starting the Wednesday before thanksgiving and ending in April.
Lewis and O’Bryon have a meeting scheduled with the person at the VA who was instrumental in setting up the veteran’s court in Klamath Falls to learn more about it.
Lewis suggested an item for next meeting agenda, member recruitment from the school district.
Next meeting: November 14, 2012 4:00-6:00 P.M. Guanajuato Room, Ashland Library
Respectfully Submitted by Linda Reid, Housing Program Specialist