'We are not a solution to homelessness ... we're simply trying to save lives during the winter months.'

I'm Celeste Goulding, and I've had the pleasure of being involved in sheltering in Forest Grove in different capacities since winter 2014. I stepped away in January 2017, and I'm grateful to be back this season as the Shelter Coordinator for the Forest Grove & Cornelius Temporary Emergency Shelters operating under the Washington County Severe Weather Shelter system.

Under the leadership of Jennifer Yocum, Forest Grove United Church of Christ has been participating in the Severe Weather Shelter system for just over a decade. In 2014, under the guidance of Rudy Tinoco, Sonrise Forest Grove joined the effort and opened their doors two nights a week. This is about when the name shift to Temporary Emergency Shelter occurred; we went from offering overnight shelter only when temperatures fell below 32 degrees Fahrenheit to guaranteeing UCC doors open Monday and Tuesday nights and Sonrise doors open Wednesday and Thursday nights.

This season, we're opening Nov. 19, with continued support by UCC and their commitment to host Monday and Tuesday, as well as ongoing support from Old Town Church Forest Grove. We've shifted to being hosted by Emanuel Lutheran in Cornelius for Wednesday and Thursday nights. Many thanks to their church congregation, as well as the City of Cornelius for being supportive of the needed venue change.

Read our story on the shelter's planned new location, published Nov. 13, 2018.

Thank you as well to Washington County Housing and Supportive Services for continued guidance and support, as well as the allocation of some EHA funding to support the dire need shelters have to expand capacity for guest services. As the recipient of some of this funding, the Temporary Emergency Shelter has been able to expand staff to include a volunteer coordinator, a meals coordinator, site coordinator for Emanuel Lutheran, as well as a guest services coordinator. The aforementioned staff are in addition to our work-study students from Pacific, and a wonderful practicum student from Pacific University's Undergraduate School of Social Work.

As a shelter, we are not a solution to homelessness, nor an effective Band-Aid; we're simply trying to save lives during the winter months. We are able to provide compassionate listening, security during set nights, warm meals, bedding, and limited social service referrals to our guests. Thanks to our continued partnership with the Forest Grove Aquatic Center, on Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons, our guests can access showers. A developing partnership with Centro Cultural will allow our guests some daytime respite on Thursdays beginning Nov. 29. Closet Green offers tremendous support providing clothing and shoes for our guests.

These are some examples of the tremendous community effort going into operating the Temporary Emergency Shelter. It is a beautiful and needed service for our neighbors experiencing homelessness.

As always, the true backbone of this effort is our volunteers. We are hosting volunteer orientations, including Nov. 17 from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. at Emanuel Lutheran in Cornelius. Please attend if you're interested in learning more about our sheltering process. I'm also happy to come speak to groups or classes if desired.

Celeste Goulding is shelter coordinator for the Forest Grove & Cornelius Temporary Emergency Shelters.

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