A recent cold snap has sent the shivering homeless searching for a better place to sleep than bedding down on the ground.

A recent cold snap has sent the shivering homeless searching for a better place to sleep than bedding down on the ground.

"That's dangerous for anybody to sleep outside," said Emilio Murillo, a Medford resident who has been struggling to find a job. The 52-year-old joined other homeless people at the Medford Gospel Mission as temperatures plunged into the teens at night. "Nobody really wants to be here, but they have no choice," Murillo said.

On Monday the mission at 125 W. Jackson St. allowed more people than normal to spend the night because of the cold weather expected for the next few days. The First Presbyterian Church at 1615 Clark Ave., Ashland, will open its doors every night at 8 as an emergency shelter through Thursday.

Murillo, who works in construction, said he occasionally finds work that gives him enough money to stay in a cheap motel for the night, but has found himself at the mission from time to time. "The last five or six months have been rough for me," he said.

Some homeless people say they don't like the cold but don't want to adhere to shelters' policies of no drugs or alcohol.

"I almost froze to death last night," David McManus said Monday. "I use alcohol to stay warm."

The 55-year-old Medford resident, who was in Hawthorne Park exhaling frosty air while warming himself in the sunshine, said the mission allows him to stay for 10 days, then he has to wait 30 days to return.

He didn't want to reveal where he bunks down, but McManus said the trick is to keep the location clean so you don't attract attention.

Mission Executive Director Bill Gourley said his organization decided to temporarily set aside the 10-day rule because of the cold. He invited five or six men who otherwise wouldn't qualify to spend the night Monday.

"When it's like this we don't count it against them," he said.

He said his operation has 76 beds if needed, but it also can put out mats. So far, he has been averaging about 50 people a night, but expects more will arrive once the word gets out.

Many homeless people choose to sleep outdoors or in their vehicles. Some are well-prepared, with donations of high-quality sleeping bags or lots of blankets, he said.

"But who wants to crawl out of a sleeping bag when it's 19 degrees?" he said.

"I've done it myself when I was deer hunting."

At the mission, Justin Green said his feet and toes would get very cold when he slept outdoors. He tried to find a place to bunk down that had a little shelter from the wind and rain.

He expected to spend his third night in a row at the mission Monday.

"I don't really have a place to stay," he said.

The Medford mission's Women and Children's Shelter at 534 N. Bartlett St. hasn't seen any surge in activity because of the cold.

"Women don't really sleep out on the streets like the men do," said Nancy Satterly, resource manager. The women generally qualify for grants to get housing, she said.

Satterly said the organization averages 30 to 35 women a night, with four or five kids, but could easily handle more.

"We don't turn them down," she said. "We find a place for them."

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 776-4476, or e-mail dmann@mailtribune.com.