An upstairs room at Origins Faith Community church in Ontario will soon house the New Hope Day Shelter. The space was renovated to include a shower and laundry. (The Enterprise/Yadira Lopez)

ONTARIO – Right above the space where folks gather every weekday for a free meal at Origins Faith Community, the Ontario church has been putting the finishing touches on a day shelter to open soon.

The New Hope Day Shelter is a partnership between Origins and Community in Action, an Ontatrio-based nonprofit. The day shelter is a response to the area’s homeless, who currently have no place to go.

“As far as ‘I’m cold, I need to warm up’ this is the only place,” said Alec Stinson, director of the New Hope Day Shelter.

There is currently no homeless shelter in Ontario. Efforts to build one stalled last December.

Over the summer, the church revamped its upstairs, installing a washer and dryer, remodeling the kitchen, and outfitting bathrooms with showers. They also made the shelter handicap-accessible by fixing up a ramp leading to the space. The work was paid for with grants from Community in Action and other donations.

Once open, the day shelter will be available from Mondays to Fridays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Although it’s not a quick fix to the homeless crisis, it’s a start, said James Vogt, Origins Faith pastor.

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“I think we have a responsibility not only to help folks to be safe and be out of the elements but as much as we can to provide a healthy community for them,” Vogt said. “Everybody needs it.”

The shelter is intended to offer respite from the elements and give people a place to sit and use a computer or phone for a bit. Folks will be able to sign up for showers, too.

“When your basic needs aren’t getting met, you don’t have the energy to fix those other things,” Stinson said.

Stinson hopes that partnerships with local agencies such as WorkSource and the county health department will help folks connect with other local resources.

The shelter is also looking for volunteers interested in providing services such as cutting hair or helping people fill out job applications.

Stinson said staffing, as well as logistics, have been barriers before the day shelter can open. The shelter won’t have an official opening day until early November.

Since February, Origins has opened its doors each afternoon Monday to Thursday for a free, hot meal. About 30 people come through each day, said Stinson.

On a recent Wednesday, folks trickled in as Stinson and volunteers prepared the meal; mac and cheese bubbled on the stove and fried chicken sizzled in the oven.

Some of the people who stopped by for a meal that day were currently couchsurfing at friends’ homes or sleeping in their cars. Others had just recently gotten off a waiting list for housing, but struggled to pay for necessities. Stinson makes it a point to tell people not to leave hungry.

When he joined as the children and families pastor at Origins in January, Stinson and his wife noticed the local need right away, as they, too, struggled to find housing in the area. Stinson said he sees a lot of families in need come in for free meals.

“The dream is we’d be able to offer more services and be available more often,” Stinson said.

Back in the kitchen area downstairs, talk quickly turned to the day shelter, with people remarking that it’s been a long time.

“I’d like to see them have a community without feeling like they are on the fringe of society,” Stinson said.

HOW TO HELP

The New Hope Day Shelter currently needs at least six volunteers per shift to help out with their meal site Monday through Thursday. The site cooks, serves and cleans up in less than four hours. The site needs volunteers who have a food service license or are willing to get one with the church’s assistance. Volunteers are needed from 10 a.m. to noon for meal prep, and from 2 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. for serving. If you can’t commit to the entire time, they also accept volunteers for portions of the mealtime. You can join for as little as one day a week or every day. Once the day shelter is fully open, they will need volunteers from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. 

 Other ways to help 

Day Shelter “Hosts” are needed to work with the director by welcoming and overseeing those who are using the day shelter. 

The site is also looking for help with special one time or monthly / yearly events. 

Do you have a unique skill you want to share that may help meet a need like haircutting/styling, computer skills, or job application assistance? 

For questions or to let the site know how you can help, contact: NewHopeOntario@gmail.com

Other needed donations include: 

Dry and canned goods, non-expired and in good condition

Bottled water

Coffee, non dairy creamer, sugar

Toiletries including: travel sized soaps, shampoos, tooth paste, shaving cream, lotions; disposable razors, toilet paper, famine hygiene products, deodorant 

New socks and under garments 

Large garbage bags 

Paper towels 

Kleenex boxes and travel packs 

Backpacks

Hair brush/combs 

Ibuprofen/Acetaminophen

White bath towels 

Hand/diaper wipes 

Read more Enterprise stories about folks without a home in Ontario:

Solutions remain elusive as Ontario grapples with homeless issues

Homeless in Ontario: A hand up, not a handout

VIDEO: Homeless folks in Ontario share their stories

Government crews clear out Ontario homeless camps

DHS steps in to help folks without a home

Have a news tip? Reporter Yadira Lopez: yadira@malheurenterprise.com or 541-473-3377

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