The problem of homelessness

In some ways organizing public community meals for the homeless is a little like being homeless, your presence makes some people feel uncomfortable and eventually you’ll be pressured to move on.

Since May 6th, we’ve served about 400 meals in Railroad Park when we decided to go weekly with our Friday Community Peace Meal. That’s an average of 50 per week in what I like to think of as “The Crock-pot Brigade” as we demonstrate love in action. It’s an all volunteer effort and dozens of volunteers help make it happen.

It’s a spin off of a monthly meal that began in November 2015 when our community came together to provide hot food, warm clothing and other basic necessities during the coldest months of the year. Part homeless outreach, part community building, these meals are preceded by a talking circle facilitated by the Ashland Culture of Peace Commission. An hour before the meal, we form a circle and share our thoughts on ways we can create a more peaceful culture. Something amazing happens when we slow down and listen to each other, friendships form and conversations begin. Every week I get to witness compassion and courage as we connect through words and language.

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Service animals – know your rights


The Americans with Disabilities Act defines a service animal as any animal that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability

This is the difference between a service animal and a therapy, emotional support or companion animal. A service animal must be individually trained to perform work or tasks directly related to the handler’s disability, while a therapy and emotional support animal merely provides comfort to an individual in some fashion.
Service animals are more than a pet. Most service animals are dogs, and can be of any size or breed (or mixture of breeds). Service animals are not legally required to wear special equipment or tags. Federal law prohibits requiring proof of disability or “certification” of the service dog’s training, or inquiring about the nature of the person’s disability. A person with a disability may not be charged admission for their service animal.

Service animals cannot be denied access to taxis, buses, trains, airports, airplanes, stores, restaurants, doctors’ offices and hospitals, schools, courthouses, polling places, government buildings, parks, zoos, housing and other places. Service animals and their access to all public places and commercial carriers is protected under Federal and State Law.

Under the ADA Title III regulations issued by the Dept. of Justice, there are only two questions that police, a business or other public accommodation may ask to determine if an animal qualifies as a service animal:

(1) Is the animal required because of a disability?
(2) What work or task has the animal been trained to perform?

For questions regarding the ADA and service animals, please contact the United States Department of Justice at 1-800-514-0301

Community meals go WE-ekly


If you pass by Railroad Park on a Friday afternoon you’ll find more than a grassy field and a children’s play area; a weekly community meal that is part homeless outreach and part community building. Wellness for Everyone (WE) began as a grassroots group in November 2015 when a woman asked a simple question in a Facebook group, could she bring a crock pot into Lithia Park and feed homeless people? Many people chimed in and Ana Witt donated $200 (her family budget for Thanksgiving) to rent Pioneer Hall. Dozens of people brought food and clothing and about 60 people enjoyed a feast. This was repeated in December and WE were on our way to feeding our community.
Now there are additional meals being served in our community and as the Friday meal in the park has grown, it has a new identity, Community Peace Meals.
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KEY to solving homelessness


Over the course of one night in January 2015, volunteers spread out across Jackson County and counted homeless people. They counted 1,358 men, women and children who are homeless in our community. Every year HUD (Housing and Urban Development) requires counties across the nation to count homeless people who are staying in shelters and every two years they require a count of both sheltered and unsheltered people; of course that number is an estimate as it’s believed that the numbers are actually much higher, but it’s an idea of how many people around us are sleeping on the streets.

1,358. Think about that for a minute. Right here, right at your own feet.

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WE Community Meal – March 23rd


Enjoy a free hot meal and good neighbors.
4 PM – 5 PM

Ashland Culture of Peace
will facilitate a Talking Circle* from 2:30 – 3:30 PM
*Attendance is not required for the meal.

Ashland Railroad Park
“A” Street between 6th and 8th.

Organized by WE Ashland

for more information or to volunteer, call 541-690-2807


Ashland community group takes on hunger one meal at a time


WE (Wellness for Everyone) began with a post on Facebook where Amy Reer asked if it would be possible to feed some homeless people, or would the city shut down such an action. Many people responded and it quickly grew into an action where Pioneer Hall was rented for several hours on an afternoon in late November 2015. Dozens of volunteers worked together to prepare food, donate warm clothing and about 60 people were served a hot, nutritious meal.

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Support community meals for the homeless and hungry

Click Here for their GoFundMe campaign.


Wellness for Everyone (WE) is a non-denominational grassroots group that began in November 2015 as a response to the needs in our community. Hundreds of people in Jackson County are homeless and many of them live in Ashland, hiding along the Greenway and deep in the forested areas of our community. Although many area churches and other groups work diligently on this issue, we could see examples of people who were falling through the cracks and not receiving the services they needed. We wanted to do something about that.

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Reflections from sleeping outside


by Heidi Parker

I started getting cold around 4:30-5 p.m.  Some hot soup helped take the chill off, but it was getting dark, and the clouds in the sky were clearing, revealing a few stars.

A small band of fellow community volunteers milled about, most setting up little tents or tarps and spreading out warm sleeping bags in preparation for the long night ahead.  Since we weren’t allowed to make a campfire on the school playing field, (one of the conditions for our use of the space) and with the bare, un-inviting, portable toilets poised precariously on the hillside a ways away, the campers huddled and chatted quietly amongst themselves, while the high school Leadership Team, plugged into their sound devices, rocked gently to an inaudible beat.

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Low income housing crisis impacts the most vulnerable

It might be true that the fastest path out of homelessness is to find yourself diagnosed with stage IV cancer, as my friend Greg’s recent experience is teaching us. Greg is a lot like many people I’ve known who are homeless; he’d been stuck there for years. He picked up odd jobs here and there whenever he could, but nothing that ever amounted to enough to get back on his feet. The jobs that he could get often paid less than minimum wage and involved physical labor. Right around the time Greg was diagnosed, the weather turned and temperatures were dropping below freezing. The Ashland Community Resource Center jumped in and helped him secure housing for the next six months.

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Community struggles with homelessness conversation


At a recent “listening session” Mayor Stromberg and city councilor Stef Seffinger hosted, Cynthia Rider, Executive Director of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and a board member of the Ashland Chamber of Commerce, said she lives in fear of homeless people. “I have a teenage daughter and walking through downtown with her, she is often sexually harassed, even when I am with her. And she is surprised that I am upset, because she says that it happens 4-5 times every day. She is growing up in a community that will tolerate constant harassment of young women.”


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