MEDFORD, Ore. -- The City of Medford issued a severe weather event declaration which allows emergency overnight shelters to open when the temperature is expected to drop below 25 degrees. The First Presbyterian Church in Medford said its doors will be open from 7pm-8am until Friday for those who need a warm place to sleep.
Wednesday night was the first in years the First Presbyterian Church opened an overnight winter shelter. It's in collaboration with the Compassion Highway Project. Church leaders and volunteers didn't have much notice either. They found out at around 3 that afternoon they were going to be able to open their doors to the homeless. The community was able to rally quickly.
"Yesterday, we did street outreach," Compassion Highway Project Founder Melissa Mayne said about Tuesday's storm. "We served food. We drove around all night making sure that we kept people alive, making sure people had supplies and stayed warm."
"Yesterday, I was giving out blankets to give people to shake off the cold at night and every time I gave away a blanket I thought 'they're going to be sleeping out in this,'" said the church's leader Reverened Murray Richmond.
Both the organization and the church came across their own set of issues, though. The church had a shelter location but no volunteers and the Compassion Highway Project had hundreds of volunteers but no space.
"We made the connection and it was just perfect," Mayne added. "[Pastor Murray} called me not too many hours ago and I said 'I'm ready. We have all the people ready to help.'"
15 volunteers showed up when NewsWatch 12 was at the shelter. More were on their way.
Now up to 50 people can get out of the cold for a few nights.
"No one deserves to freeze," said Mayne.
"The people in our community stepped up," Pastor Murray said. "It was unanimous with our elders that we do this. Every time we asked something the community said 'yes.' This is a great community and the heart that they have is really touching."
Mayne said if anyone knows anyone that needs a warm place to stay, give the Compassion Highway Project a call at (541) 646-8004
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