“Every donation we get, we turn back around to help others,” says John Wieczorek of Options for Housing Residents of Ashland about their “Pasta with a Purpose” dinner and “Sleep Out” the following night to benefit programs for the homeless and those in danger of becoming homeless.
The dinner on Friday, Nov. 3, begins at 5 p.m. and goes until 7 at the United Methodist Church at 175 East Main St. It is a first-time offering. The OHRA fundraiser ($15 per plate in advance, $20 at the door) features an all-you-can-eat pasta buffet and folk music by the duo Hollis Peach as part of what the organization is billing as a "Weekend of Hope."
They’re hoping adding the dinner will allow those who can’t do the Sleep Out on Saturday night an opportunity to engage in the weekend. “We want the whole community to be involved,” Wieczorek announced at a meeting of Southern Oregon Housing for All on Monday evening.
The Sleep Out began four years ago as a fundraiser for the Ashland Community Resource Center, which offers support for families grappling with higher rents and lower vacancies, job training services and help for the homeless. OHRA typically raises between $20,000 and $25,000 from the Sleep Out by collection contributions from community members who sponsor those taking apart in the camp out.
By adding the dinner they hope to raise more money and have the chance to reach more people who by choice or due to health reasons can’t be part of the Sleep Out.
“We choose October because it’s a little cold and uncomfortable so people have a taste of what it’s like for people who have to sleep outside all the time,” says Wieczorek.
The Sleep Out on Saturday, Nov. 4, will be held at the Lincoln Elementary Athletic Field on Beach Street in Ashland.
Wieczorek says of the Sleep Out, “You sleep out one night so other people don’t have to sleep out every night.”
Tent set up begins at 3 p.m. and hot food and beverages will be served for participants both in the evening and the following morning. “You get to sleep in a tent and have hot food which is more than homeless people get in our community,” OHRA board member Sharon Harris says of the event.
Advocates for the homeless and those struggling with rent agreed the fundraiser helps on multiple levels: awareness, empathy and financial support. “We all have to show up for each other around this issue. The time is now,” says Ana Witt who is in the process of working to create a permanent homeless shelter in Ashland along with advocates and organizers of the Community Peace Meal, Jason Houk and Vanessa Martynse Houk.
For more information or to reserve space at either the Pasta with a Purpose dinner on Friday, Nov. 3, or the Sleep Out on Saturday, Nov. 4, OHRA has a website at www.HomelessOptions.org or you can pick up a Sleep Out packet and dinner tickets at the Ashland Community Resource Center at 611 Siskiyou Blvd. next to Safeway. For those wishing to speak to someone, the phone number is 541-631-2235.
— Email Ashland freelance writer Julie Akins at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/@julieakins.