Volunteer opportunities abound, as non-affiliated members of our community, along with faith-based groups and the City of Ashland, are again offering 4 nights of shelter each week during the cold winter months.  Each shelter volunteer is paired with a more experienced host so no one will ever be hosting alone or without a more experienced host.  A background check is required for hosts at any of the City-sponsored sites such as Pioneer Hall or any city owned buildings used for Emergency Shelters. Other locations have no pre-requisites other than a willingness to serve.

HISTORY OF HOMELESS SHELTERS IN ASHLAND: In January of 2007 two very kind Ashland citizens: Ruth Coulthard and Barbie Breneiser, began offering, on their own, Emergency-Only winter shelters at the Presbyterian Church. In the winter of 2009 they began hosting regular Sunday night shelters in addition to the Emergency Shelters from December to February. In 2012, a larger group of volunteers joined with them to offer 3 nights of shelter each week from November to April. By January 2013 we were able to offer the 4 regular nights of shelter each week that continue to the present.

Last winter, with the help of more than 100 community volunteers, the coordinated shelter efforts provided 88 nights of shelter, with an additional six Emergency Shelter nights, serving more than 900 guests in total.

Beginning in mid-November and continuing through mid-April each year there is a “no frills” overnight shelter on each Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday nights in Ashland at the following locations:

*MONDAY NIGHTS: PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH Calvin Hall, 1615 Clark Ave.  (Corner of Walker Ave. & Siskiyou Blvd.) 7:30 p.m. to 7:30 a.m. next morning. Families & Well-behaved pets are allowed.

*TUESDAY NIGHTS: PIONEER HALL, 73 Winburn Way across from Lithia Park (Sponsored by Temple Emek Shalom, Unitarian Universalists & the City of Ashland) 7:30 p.m.-7:30 a.m. next morning. Well-behaved Pets OK. No families allowed. (Background check required of hosts at this site.)

*WEDNESDAY NIGHTS: TRINITY EPISCOPAL CHURCH, 44 N. 2nd Street7:30 p.m.-7:30 a.m. next morning.  Families & Well-behaved pets are allowed.

*THURSDAY NIGHTS: PIONEER HALL, 73 Winburn Way across from Lithia Park (Sponsored by Temple Emek Shalom, Unitarian Universalists, & the City of Ashland) 7:30 p.m.- 7:30 a.m. next morning. Well-behaved pets ok.  No families allowed. (Background check required of hosts at this site.)

Contact Information for Shelter Coordinators:

Volunteer Coordinator: Heidi Parker, ph.#: 541-482-1520;

Presbyterian Shelter: Bob Altaras: ph#: 541-201-0437; email:

and Karen Amarotico: ph#: 541-890-6817; email:

Trinity Episcopal Shelter: Allan Miles: ph#: 541-326-6563;

Pioneer Hall Shelters: Sharon Harris: ph#: 208-215-1422; email:

and John Wieczorek: ph.#: 541-482-8230/ email:


We periodically provide group training for all the folks who are acting as volunteer shelter hosts.  It isn’t a long or extremely detailed process, but it’s good to go through all the “what if” situations with people who have been doing this work for some time.

If you are unable to attend one of the trainings, you can still volunteer. We would have you “apprentice” along with another, more experienced host.  If you would like to volunteer to host at the Pioneer Hall Shelters or the Emergency Shelters, you must have a background check done first. There are NO Pre-Requisites required to volunteer at any of the other shelter sites.

To reassure you, in the nine years that overnight shelters have been happening in Ashland, there have been relatively few problems.  The police occasionally bring people to us who are in need of shelter, and they are readily available and respond quickly and professionally on the rare occasions that we need to call them for assistance.

EMERGENCY SHELTERS:  In addition to our regular, weekly shelter nights, whenever the temperature is projected to drop below 20 degrees or severe weather conditions are predicted to occur, the Ashland City Manager authorizes an Emergency Shelter to open in a city-owned facility, provided there are at least 2 community volunteers (ideally one man and one woman) available to oversee the shelter.  Whenever an Emergency Shelter is called, the City Manager notifies the Volunteer Shelter Coordinator, who then sends out an email to all Shelter Volunteers stating the date, time & location of the Emergency Shelter. As soon as there are 2 volunteers who agree to host the shelter announcements are put out to the police, help lines, and signs are posted around town and online, directing people where to go for shelter.

To find out if there is an Emergency Shelter on any night other than the regular Monday-Thursday nights go to the following sites where notices will be posted:

  • The City of Ashland’s home page at: and look under “news”
  • OHRA’S (Options for Homeless Residents of Ashland) website: (see Projects/ Winter Shelters) Phone: 541-631-2235
  • Call Ashland Police Dept., NON-EMERGENCY #: 541-482-5211
  • The Information Kiosk on the Plaza in downtown Ashland
  • Bulletin Boards at Shop n’ Kart, DHS office
  • On the door of: Pioneer Hall, Ashland Emergency Food Bank, Henry’s Laundromat, City of Ashland’s main office on the Plaza, Community Development Building, Gas stations at either end of town, etc.

If you are interested in becoming a volunteer host for the Emergency Shelters, you must have had a background check in advance, since Emergency Shelters usually happen with very little prior notice.

BACKGROUND CHECK INSTRUCTIONS: To get a background check, you go to the Ashland Police Department at 1155 East Main Street and tell the person at the window that you plan to be a volunteer for the Emergency or Pioneer Homeless shelters and that you need to have a background check.  Be sure to bring a photo ID with you.  They will do a computerized background check based on your date of birth. You will get the results immediately.

The red flags that they are looking for with background checks are:

  • Conviction of a felony in the last 7 years
  • Conviction of a misdemeanor in the last 3 years
  • Applicant is subject of a pending misdemeanor or felony violation investigation

There should be no charge to you for this service as the City of Ashland has agreed to pay for the background checks.  If there is a question about what shows up on the computerized check then they will want to do a more in-depth, fingerprint-based background check that takes longer to get the results back. The background checks are good for 3 years.

Additionally, if you have had a background check done within the last 2 years and have documentation to show that you don’t have to be re-checked if you can verify the results.


Volunteers for all the sites sign up using an online signup Google Doc.  All the shelter sites are listed by the day of the week. For example, Presbyterian Church on Monday nights is shown first with all the Monday nights of the season. Following is Pioneer Hall Tuesday nights. Here is the link to the Google Doc site where you sign up to volunteer:

To sign up, type or copy the entire web address link above and then paste it into your browser.  It will take you to a Google Doc called “Homeless Winter Shelter Volunteer Sign-up 2016-17“.  (You do not need a password to access the list.) Once there, if you scroll down the page, you will see each of the four shelters listed under each individual shelter’s name, along with the name & contact information of the Coordinator(s) for each shelter site.

Along the left side of that section is listed the day of the week and date of each shelter from November 2016 to April 2017. If you see a blank to the right of the date, under the heading of Volunteer Name & Contact Info, that’s an open space indicating that a volunteer is needed on that date. There should be a minimum of 2 volunteers per date as you read across the page.  If you’re not planning to spend the night, you can also sign up to help out in the evening or in the morning, or to bring food, under the “Additional Volunteers” column.

Once you find the date, site and position you’d like to volunteer for, you just click on the blank space and type in your name and phone # on the line to the right of the date. The program automatically saves what you type.  For those volunteers who are unable to sign up by computer just call the Volunteer Coordinator or the Coordinator for that site and one of us can either walk you through the process or just add your name to the signup sheet online for you.

We ask you to put in your phone number so that the site coordinator can call you to remind you if for any reason you don’t show up.   If you are unable to host on the day you’ve signed up for, it is EXTREMELY important to notify the Site Coordinator or the Volunteer Coordinator by phone as soon as you know, so that we can find a replacement quickly. We are unable to open a shelter unless we have two overnight hosts.



Bring                                                                Do Not Bring


  • Cell Phone & Charger                                  * Any expensive jewelry
  • Flashlight or headlamp                               * A purse
  • Extra Batteries                                              * Anything valuable (leave home or locked in car)
  • Pillow & sleeping pad
  • Sleeping bag or blanket
  • Water bottle
  • Shoes that are easy to slip on & off
  • Comfortable, loose-fitting clothes to sleep in
  • A fanny pack for valuables
  • Tooth brush/ toothpaste
  • Pen/ Paper or notebook
  • Reading material in case you’re up at night

HOST JOB DESCRIPTION: Two volunteers will serve as overnight hosts each night (one male & one female when possible), and sometimes a third host will be scheduled as well. New volunteers will always have an experienced co-host. Someone once described what it’s like to sleep at the shelter as similar to the kind of sleep you get with a new baby; you’ve always got one ear open!

Volunteers arrive by 7:15 p.m. and try to open the doors by 7:30 p.m. Please be respectful and responsible if church usage requires any delay in opening. Check in with co-host before guests arrive to familiarize yourself with the space and share any concerns. Agree on your sleeping areas and arrange your belongings. There should always be one host near each exit. Plug in the hot water dispenser in the kitchen. Bring in any stored bedding or pads, if available, from the storage space.

GREETING THE GUESTS: Welcome the guests by introducing yourself by first name and asking their name. Whatever name they choose to use is fine. Many guests have a “street name.” Write guest’s name in Shelter log- book or paper file.

Review with them the rules of the shelter:

  • HOURS: 7:30 p.m. to 7:30 a.m.
  • LIGHTS OUT at 10:00 p.m. & doors are locked
  • Quiet hours are from 10 p.m. to 6:30 a.m.
  • Last call for cigarettes, or to take dogs out for a bathroom break is 9:30 p.m.
  • Assure them that they may leave at any time, but cannot be readmitted after 10 p.m. (without special prior arrangement, like taking a dog out) until 6:30 a.m.


  • Invite smokers who go outside for a last cigarette to use the “ashtray” & smoke away from the building.
  • All guests must exit the premises by 7:30 a.m.

DOGS & PETS: Well-behaved pets are permitted at all the shelters. Guests must be responsible for cleaning up after their dogs and dogs must be relatively friendly (to humans and other guest dogs).

This is a “NO FRILLS” Shelter. There will likely be some bedding that has been donated, but none is promised. We do promise a warm, dry floor. Show guests the sleeping area and encourage them to arrange their bedding where they like. Families with children (except in Pioneer Hall Shelters) should be provided the most private space available (perhaps a screened corner). Relay special needs information on families, seniors, sick, or disabled to the experienced Shelter Coordinator. Give directions to bathroom facilities. “Sorry, no guests may use the kitchen space.” You may microwave something for someone, or help with paper plates and utensils if guests have something to eat. We try to supply instant oatmeal, instant hot chocolate, and coffee and tea. Often volunteers bring breakfast for the guests. Sometimes the guests bring food to share in the evenings when they first arrive.

TIME TO VISIT AND RELAX: Explain the morning plan. (Coffee and instant oatmeal can be made.) Let folks know that their help with clean up before departure in the morning would be appreciated. Let them know if you foresee the shelter being open again the next night, and direct them to look for signs posted in the downtown Plaza Kiosk or on Pioneer Hall door if an Emergency Shelter is anticipated.

IN CASE OF EMERGENCY: Disruptive behavior is an opportunity for creative problem solving. Snoring? Earplugs. Impatience with crowding? A private corner. Still lacking cooperation? “I’m so sorry, but you are going to have to leave. I know it’s hard to be in this crowded space. Do you need a blanket to take with you?”

If necessary for safety or health reasons, hosts should not hesitate to call 911. (This has not happened very often.) The Ashland Police are a very good resource. The few times hosts have needed assistance, they have come quickly and were very respectful in the way that they dealt with uncooperative guests, quietly escorting them outside, so as not to wake up others.

If a guest complains of severe pain that is not easily resolved by simple suggestions, or feels that he or she needs to go to the Emergency Room, it is important to call an ambulance, and let them evaluate the problem and decide whether or not to transport them to the Emergency Room. Two hosts should always remain on site; never leave one host alone at the shelter. Each Shelter will have a first aid kit that includes basic first aid supplies along with emergency phone numbers to call for assistance. When in doubt about what to do, call 911.

IN THE MORNING: Usual wake up time is 6:30 a.m. Unlock the doors, turn on the lights and prepare hot beverages as needed. Often times there are volunteers available for this and to serve any breakfast that is available. Try to debrief with your co-host. Pass on specific problems and suggestions to the Volunteer Coordinator or the Site Coordinator, if you are comfortable doing so. All guests must be gone by 7:30 a.m. At Pioneer Hall, the hosts are responsible for sweeping and mopping floors and cleaning the restrooms. Most days one or more guests will stay to help with cleanup. Remember to lock doors and windows, turn off lights and turn down thermostat as required. Each site may have slightly different protocols for closing up shelters.

Thank you for considering volunteering to help the most vulnerable members of our community.  By giving of yourselves and helping to provide a dry, warm space to sleep, even for one night, you help bring warmth, peace and a brief respite from the storm of living outside without shelter.

Please call or email me if you have questions or need assistance in signing up.

Heidi Parker, Volunteer Coordinator

Ashland Winter & Emergency Homeless Shelters

Phone: 541-482-1520


crisis-de-escalation  See for information on crisis escalation