On Wednesday, the Interfaith Care Community-Ashland, a homeless center near Shop ‘n Kart, will close its doors for good.

Sharon Schreiber, director of Interfaith Care Community-Medford that oversees and partially funds the Ashland center, said the board of directors unanimously voted last month to shutter the center.

"I do feel bad about this," she said. "I started in Ashland and I’ve worked for 15 years to keep that facility open. But we didn’t think it was prudent or ethical to spend so much in Ashland when the funding is supposed to be spent countywide."

Schreiber said that with the current nationwide economic downturn, she’s seeing more and more Medford families who are on the brink of homelessness.

"These people need emergency rental and utility assistance," she said. "In Ashland, there are such a limited number of people who are homeless and willing to change their situations. Most are looking for ways to subsidize a lifestyle they have chosen."

She said the center offers housing and job assistance programs, but a majority of the people who utilize the center weren’t taking advantage of those programs.

Schreiber said she’s not prejudiced against people who choose that lifestyle, but doesn’t think ICCM should be spending desperately needed resources on people who have made that choice.

Goodbye

The ICCA held a barbecue Monday at noon with office manager Amber Thomas grilling burgers for a crowd of about 20. Thomas, who is being transferred to the Medford office, said she wasn’t allowed to speak to the press.

However, many of the homeless who turned out for the event were disappointed with the closing and were very concerned about where they would shower.

Thomas has said in the past that the ICCA serves about 200 people on a weekly basis and provides showers, laundry, Internet, telephone and mail service.

One man said between bites of his hamburger, "Now everybody’s going to be bathing in the fountain. It’s gonna be a revolution."

One woman, who also declined to give her name, said she and her husband live in an RV with a broken shower.

"I just lost my job and he’s on disability," she said. "This is a nice place to come and meet people and take a shower. I don’t know what we’re going to do now."

Another woman attending the barbecue, Rose, said the center was a great resource when she needed to use the computers and get bus tokens so she could find a job.

"It really helps to have some place to go when you’re down and out," she said.

Not necessary

A couple of men at the barbecue — both declining to give their names — agreed the center wouldn’t have to close at all if it was still at its original location at 144 N. 2nd St.

ICCA faced complaints from neighbors who claimed to have been harassed by clients. The tensions came to a head in 2004 when neighbors filed a lawsuit against the organization. ICCA owned the house, but has paid $1,800 a month in rent since moving about a year ago.

Schreiber said some neighbors who had moved into the area after the center was established complained about the loitering that took place before and after facility hours. Remaining at the previous facility wasn’t an option, Schreiber said, because ICCA clients wouldn’t "modify their behavior."

She said, "They had been warned repeatedly that they couldn’t hang out on the porch or property before or after hours. So if their behavior had been different, we might not have had to move."



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