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You can help homeless folks by joining 'Run For Shelter'

If you can run or walk — or even stand on a street corner and hand out cups of water — you can help local homeless people this fall.

A special 5K event will take place in Forest Grove Saturday, Oct. 8. It’s called “Run For Shelter,” and 100 percent of the profits will benefit temporary emergency shelters at the Forest Grove United Church of Christ and Sonrise Church in Forest Grove. Both shelters are run by a combination of community volunteers, students receiving work/study support and paid staff.

Since 2007, the FGUCC shelter on College Way has welcomed homeless people in from the cold. Inside the shelter, guests are offered dinner, breakfast and a safe place to sleep.

Conversely, on extremely hot summer days, the UCC shelter has also opened as a “cooling center” so anyone without air conditioning can get a break from heat waves. The center was open three days last week between 1 and 7 p.m. when scorching temperatures hit western Washington County, and six people sought refuge from the weather, according to Rev. Jennifer Yocum, pastor of the FGUCC.

All of this takes money. Yocum says her church’s annual cost for running the shelter is about $38,000 — for staff time and everything from light and heat to insurance and toilet paper. The FGUCC received a Community Enhancement Program grant to help pay for volunteer coordination of the shelter in the coming season.

Yocum hopes “Run For Shelter” garners $2,500 or more for the cause.

A little history: in the spring of 2008, following a Summit on Homelessness in town, the UCC formed a work/study partnership with Pacific University. For the next seven seasons, the shelter was open an average of 17 to 19 nights, providing about 100 bed-stays per season. In 2015, a staff recruitment crisis caused the FGUCC to change from being triggered by “severe weather” and shift to planned openings on Mondays and Tuesdays — with Sonrise Church’s Forest Grove campus opening its own shelter on Wednesdays. With planned openings, the number of folks seeking shelter soared.

“We reached capacity and had to turn people away most nights we were open during the latter half of the shelter season,” said Yocum.

High rents and a lack of available units in our area make it challenging to get homeless people into affordable housing.

“Run For Shelter” is unlike most other running/walking events that benefit charities. There’s no set registration fee — you can donate whatever amount you’d like — but organizers are hoping participants will contribute what they can toward the well-being of their fellow humans who have no place to call home.

Expect the first “Run For Shelter” to be a meaningful, community-oriented event. For more information, call Elena Parker at the FGUCC, 503-357-9121.