Thanks to the hard work of dedicated volunteers, Ashland now offers shelter from the cold to the homeless six nights a week. Taking nothing away from those volunteers — who are largely responsible for adding one night of shelter to the previous five — it's still not enough.
The sixth night is being provided at Pioneer Hall, one of three winter shelter sites, following the Friday dinner organized there by Jason and Vanessa Houk, who are leaders in Ashland's efforts to serve the needs of those living on the streets. The Houks also staff the Sunday night shelter at Pioneer Hall. That leaves Saturday as the only night without shelter.
The Houks say shelter clients are visibly exhausted on Sunday night, having spend two nights outside. That's hardly surprising. It takes energy to stay warm, and it's difficult to sleep outside when the weather is cold. The Houks credit the city for working with them to provide space for the sixth night of shelter, and they hope to expand to cover Saturday nights as well if enough volunteers can be enlisted.
Ashland ought to be able to offer a warm, indoor space seven nights a week in the cold months of the year. Eventually, organizers hope to develop a full-time shelter or a day center, and that could help more homeless residents become self-sufficient. But for now, just reaching seven nights of overnight warmth would be a major achievement.
To volunteer, contact Vanessa Houk at 541-930-2170 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.