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Established to give homeless people a safe, warm place to sleep when the weather gets cold.

SUSAN MATHENY/MADRAS PIONEER - Pat Abernathy stands in the men's sleeping room, showing one of the plastic totes they will be given to store their things.The Jefferson County Winter Shelter, to give homeless people a safe, warm place to sleep when the weather gets cold, has been established in Madras through a partnership between the Jefferson County Faith Based Network, Shepherd's House Ministries, and Madras Gospel Mission.

Dana St. John, a member of the leadership team working on the project, told how the nonprofit shelter got started.

"(Madras Free Methodist Pastor) Rick Russell initiated the motivating conversations with MGM and Shepherd's House," she said, noting Shepherd's House operates successful shelter programs in Bend, Redmond and Sisters. "They had the expertise and had already worked out the bugs," St. John added.

"Rick is also a pastor on Mountain View Church in Redmond, which is a shelter host, and he brought the idea to Jefferson County," she said, adding Shepherd's House provided them with training.

The Madras team, which includes Dawn Murry, Gary Buss, Pam Gienger, Jim Struck, Russell and St. John, knew there was a need and had discussed it for a while.

"Finally, we all said if we're going to do it, we'd better get started, and now the cold weather is almost upon us," St. John said.

Madras resident Pat Abernathy was hired as the shelter coordinator, along with four part-time paid staff members, who stay at the shelter through the night while the guests are sleeping.

The shelter partners with area churches, who host it for one or two months. "It moves from one church to another, so no one church has to host it the whole time," St. John said. In November and December, it will be located on Sixth Street, at the First Baptist Church in Madras, assisted by volunteers from Living Hope Christian Center.

The shelter opens whenever the temperature gets to 32 degrees or below, and the hours are 6 p.m. to 7 a.m. It will be open Nov. 1, through the end of March (when the temperature is 32 degrees).

The shelter is in the process of obtaining a phone number for people to call to check and see if the shelter is open that night.

When open, homeless men, women and children come in and are served a hot meal. From 6-9:30 p.m., there is a dining and game room area where they can play cards, drink coffee, and chat with volunteers who will listen to their story and see if they can help them move into a more stable situation.

The lights are turned out at 10 p.m., and once guests come in, they can't leave during the night. If they do, they won't be allowed back inside.

"This is to prevent them going out and drinking, etc. It is a clean and sober shelter, and the staff will check everybody in and if they are obviously inebriated or high, they can't come in," St. John said.

In the morning, the guests are fed a breakfast of oatmeal or muffins, and need to leave by 7 a.m. The staff then cleans up the church area, and sleeping cots and blankets are loaded into a trailer and stored. "So, when regular church activities start, there is no trace that we were there," she said.

St. John said the shelter has all the sleeping cots, sheets, towels and pillows it needs, but could use more blankets and pillow cases. Donations for start-up expenses may be made at the website shepherdshousemininstries.org. Click the "donation" tab, and scroll to the Jefferson County Winter Shelter tab to have the donation go to the Madras shelter.

In January and February, the shelter will relocate to the Madras Free Methodist Church, 976 South Adams Drive, assisted by volunteers from the Metolius Friends Church, and in March it will be at the Cornerstone Baptist Church 675 NE 10th St.

Homeless people are being informed about the shelter through printed cards left at the library, Post Office, LINC office, city hall, police station, churches, and laundromats. "We're putting them at places where homeless people might be frequenting, but also are relying on word of mouth," St. John said.

St. John said Abernathy was selected because of her experience. "Seven years ago, she was involved with Living Hope's winter shelter and is excited about the opportunity to engage in this type of ministry again. She is a certified caregiver with the Department of Human Services and has cared for clients for 10 years. She and her husband also worked 20 years with Stonecroft Ministries," she said.

At the First Baptist Church, Abernathy was getting things ready.

Giving a tour of the facility, which has a capacity to house 15-20 people, she showed an area for men to sleep, and a separate area for women, and moms with children. "Unaccompanied teens can't stay here, but we will provide them with another resource," Abernathy said, noting, "The majority are usually men."

Each guest is given a large plastic tote to store their belongings. During the night she said, "The staff will do periodic safety checks to keep our guests safe."

Abernathy explained why the job appealed to her. "My personal involvement stemmed from a love for the people and a desire to get them in a safe warm place on nights when they could be endangered. This is the second shelter I've been involved with, and the rewards are very gratifying. I also have a wonderful staff, who are very invested," she said.

She said that Madison Coffee House and Laundry has donated the laundering of the bedding, and that "First Baptist Pastor Don Courtney has been wonderful to work with at this facility. This is a central location for where the homeless are."

According to Shepherd's House estimates, it takes $40 per guest per night to staff a shelter, and Abernathy said donations are still needed, through the Shepherd's House website.

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