Severe Weather Shelter opens doors

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Cold and rainy weather is the reality of fall and winter seasons. There are many people who are subjected to the adversities that come with the colder 
temperatures. The United Church of Christ (UCC) in Forest Grove is part of the Washington County Severe Weather System; they open their doors on Monday and Tuesday from Nov. 28 to March 1 for guests in need of shelter and a meal. Sonrise Church partners with the UCC and provides shelter on Wednesdays. The space is limited, but they do what they can to provide for those in need. “The Forest Grove Temporary Emergency Shelter is part of the Severe Weather Shelter which is county wide and UCC hosts Monday night and Tuesday night and Sonrise hosts on Wednesday night, so the shelter here is a collaboration of two churches,” Volunteer Coordinator Celeste Goulding said.
“It could potentially be more if there were more host sites who wanted to open up space and help recruit volunteers, we could be sheltering more nights.” The UCC host site has limited space and there are times when potential guests needing shelter are turned away. The shelter wants to do more, but funds, space and volunteer recruitment are all limitations that can be helped. “We max out at 15 single adults and two families with children,” Goulding said. “We have two classrooms that we put families in and the 15 single adults sleep in the fellowship room. Last year we were turning people away every night we were open for at least two months. We do know that a couple hundred people came through during the course of last season.” There is a high demand for shelter in Forest Grove and Washington County. The rises in housing prices have attributed to this, but this is not the only cause for an increasing need in Washington County. “There is a huge need; I mean county wide at a federal, state and county level the numbers of folks experiencing homelessness they’re just increasing and the gap in affordable housing, Washington County is slated to build 700 affordable housing units per year and they have been meeting that goal but there is a 1400 person waitlist,” Goulding said.
“So we are at least two years behind getting housing for the people that have already applied for it, let alone for those that are still losing housing because of rent increases, lack of home buying options.” The high demand for shelter brings a high demand for volunteers and donations, food, clothing, jackets and meals. “As a community we can do something about it personally, do something to address the conditions of those who are experiencing homelessness right here with what resources are already available in the community we have,” Goulding said. There are currently work-study hours available for students at Pacific University to become involved with the shelter. Making meals or being an overnight host, the need for volunteers is always there and with the work-study option it is a great for a student to utilize the hours they have and to also give back to the community and affect some good in the lives of others. “We had good recruitment efforts throughout October, I have seven students hired right now, five of them on work-study and two of them on funds that came from the church through a fundraiser,” Goulding said. “I’ve got works study positions open.
I’m looking for people to work shifts Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Anybody who has work-study money that might not spend it all at another job it would be a great way to supplement that and I would be happy to talk to anyone who is interested.” The fall semester is getting close to the end, and many will be going home for Thanksgiving break and then for Christmas break, but there are also some who may be coming back for the short winter term. Of those who have work-study hours that they can spend or need to spend the deadline for work-study applications has been extended for work at the UCC shelter. “They have a little bit of an extension beyond what is typical, we have a deadline to hire by and I’ve extended theirs,” Melissa Vieira, internship coordinator with Pacific said. “So it is possible we could get more students there.” 
With the extension on the hire date, students 
who have hours to give might benefit from helping at the UCC shelter. The shelter would certainly benefit from the students who are interested in assisting with 
meals, overnight hosting or in general facilitation. Goulding said there was a need for overnight hosts. Senior Prescott Devinney volunteers at the shelter and takes on the role of an overnight host on Monday nights. “It’s about 13 hours depending on the day, how much cleanup there is to do,” Devinney said. Along with the overnight hosting there is a need for meals at the UCC.
Grocery stores and restaurants help with providing meals for the shelter and all the donations that come in are welcomed and appreciated. “There are a couple different ways to help feed the shelter guests,” Devinney said. “There are collaborations between food providers and meal producers in town. Grocery stores, restaurants, oftentimes they have food they have to throw away. It’s expiring in the case of a grocery store or it is expiring in the case of a restaurant and that can be donated to the shelters. We just have to follow certain guidelines when picking it and packaging it. You can donate store bought food, purchase premade items like lasagna or pizza and we can store it on site and heat it up there.” While processed foods are good in a pinch and make a big difference to the shelter guests, home- style foods offer much more nutrition to the guests and the richer nutrition is as important as the shelter itself. Students could volunteer to make meals in the UCC’s kitchen, but one person in any volunteer group will need a food-handlers card. Also, cooking meals 
to freeze has a flexible time frame. Interested students can contact Goulding by email at celeste.goulding@ “We always need people to cook and serve,” Goulding said. “Students depending on their schedule could come in and use our kitchen to cook and freeze meals that could be reheated and served out at shelters.” There are several ways students can engage with the homeless community. Making meals in the UCC kitchen, utilizing work-study hours, volunteering valuable time and petitioning clubs, student senate, the university, the Center for Civic Engagement and the community at large to support the shelter, can make all the difference for people who need some help. We all need help at different times when we get knocked down and volunteering or donating at the UCC are a few of actions that can improve the lives of 
those who find themselves without a home.

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