Plans moving forward for homeless shelter
The Medford City Council was briefed at its meeting on Tuesday night on the progress of establishing a homeless shelter for Taylor County.
Taylor County Housing Authority director Jessica Mudgett, who is president of Taylor County Supportive Housing, gave the council a brief history of the group and said they submitted an application this year for a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG). She said the funding would allow them to purchase a building to use as a homeless shelter for Taylor County, do any necessary work to the building and provide funding for staff through the two-year period of the grant.
Mudgett said they hope to offer shelter, food, support and help connect them to available community services that will help the homeless get back on their feet. She went on to say the majority of home- less in Taylor County are in Medford and what they are currently able to offer are Salvation Army hotel vouchers for a night or two stay in a local motel. Mudgett said two days is not enough time to help someone to self-sufficiency, noting that in 2019 she help 97 people with hotel vouchers and that it really didn’t solve the problem.
Mudgett said the goal is to support and help the homeless so that when they leave, they are on their feet and are selfsuffi cient in the community. She said once the group receives the grant funding, they would like to look for an unoccupied building — like a four-bedroom house — in the city of Medford to use as a shelter. Since many of the people she works with don’t have access to transportation, Mudgett said she would like the shelter to be close to shopping, daycare, and work options and opportunities.
Alderman Laura Holmes asked if the shelter would take families. Mudgett said yes, adding if the family was a woman with children, they would still utilize the hotel vouchers if they needed to find shelter for a homeless man. She said their hope was to be able to make the building secure so they could house men, women and children all at the same time. Mudgett said all that would depend on what type of building the group obtains to use for the shelter.
Alderman Greg Knight asked if they were looking to purchase an existing building. Mudgett said yes, saying there would be too many obstacles with funding if they were to build new or purchase a building that is currently occupied.
Alderman Clem Johnson asked how long someone would stay at the shelter. Mudgett replied that was part of developing their program, which she said they aren’t going to do until they have the grant funding and a building to use as a shelter. She said each situation is different but thought it could be 30 or even 60 days, depending on how long it takes the person to “become stabilized with a few paychecks under their belt before they’re able to put money down on an apartment.” She said there are different grant programs to help with security deposits and rents on apartments which the group will be utilizing.
Alderman Christine Weix asked if there is a limit on the number of motel vouchers Mudgett receives from the Salvation Army. Mudgett said Taylor County has wonderful support for the Salvation Army. She said she’s given a monthly budget and that there are a lot of months when she goes over that, but has been assured by the Salvation Army that they’re sitting okay in Taylor County and should continue helping the homeless population as much as they can. Mudgett added that the Salvation Army has told her the voucher funds can be used to help at the shelter once it is up and running.
Mudgett said they were just waiting on the grant funding before proceeding and it was just a case of getting everything in order. She said they had submitted the grant application and the state needed some additional information which the group is in the process of sending to the state. Mudgett said by August they should have an answer on the grant, at which point they would begin looking for a building.
Pool manager Abbie Bergman updated the council on the city pool.
Bergman said the pool has been running smoothly with an average attendance of approximately 50 people at a time with the maximum being 170 people for the day. She said the community had been spreading out around the pool deck and keeping good social distancing from each other. “As a whole, it’s running pretty well.”
Bergman said they’ve had to turn people away because they wanted to come with money instead of the pool pass. She said they usually go to city hall and purchase a pass and there hasn’t been many people in the community who have been angry about that.
Alderman Mike Bub said the city had set the rule about only accepting pool passes so the pool wouldn’t become overwhelmed and since the peak capacity seems to be around 60 or 70, he asked if the council wanted to reconsider and let people purchase daily passes.
Mayor Mike Wellner said his concern with that is people coming to visit Medford from areas in or out of the state that have a high number of COVID-19 cases. He said the city has been fortunate so far because it has limited pool use to its residents. Wellner said with four to six more weeks of summer left, he would hate to see the pool close because someone from a COVID-19 hotspot brought the virus into the pool.