Construction is under way for Tualatin shelter
Rolling Hills Community Church has been using a portion of its building as Tualatin's only severe weather shelter since 2008. With special permission from Washington County, the church has also been able to open its doors, regardless of the weather, to those in need of a meal or a place to sleep, every Wednesday night during the winter months.
Yet organizers said they wanted to do more.
'We felt the need to really create a facility that's more functional,' said James Boling, the Severe Weather Shelter Team Leader at Rolling Hills.
The church provides a meal, a shower and a place to sleep for people in need. The meals were brought in from an upstairs kitchen and volunteers were needed to escort shelter guests the bathroom or to shower rooms in another part of the building.
In December 2010, church members decided it was time to donate money, time and resources to provide for the complete renovation of the shelter. Renovations began in the spring of 2011 and include the addition of storage units, a laundry room, showers, restrooms and a kitchen.
'Before, you'd come in and you could take a shower, but you're putting on the clothes that you wore into the shelter,' Boling said. 'Putting clean clothes back on is a huge thing, so it's going to be an amazing opportunity to do that.'
In light of construction, the shelter has not been open this winter. Renovations are expected to be completed well before the next winter arrives.
In anticipation of the county's approval of the soon-to-be equipped and certified shelter, Boling said he thinks the space could increase its schedule to more than just one or two nights a week.
'I think the community will dictate what the need is,' he said. 'Our goal is to be ready to meet that need. If we need to be open more often, we will. But with the new construction, we'll have that opportunity.'
In addition, the renovations could turn a variety of other community service ideas into possibilities. Rolling Hills already uses its building to host the Tualatin School House Pantry for food as well as Northwest Children's Outreach, a donation and distribution site for children's clothing, toys and other items. According to Faith Carter, Rolling Hill's community global outreach director, the new laundry facilities could be used to serve those who utilize the pantry and outreach center, and the shelter's dining area could be used to hold nutrition classes or tutoring for families or individuals.
'You do what you can with the resources you have,' she said.
According to Carter, the ability to provide all the necessary amenities in one location - food, hygiene, a sleeping area - will be a huge step toward achieving their true goal.
'We want this to feel like a community space, where people can get more than just a meal,' she said. 'Everything will be contained. We feel that this will create more of a relational atmosphere where real community can happen. There have been some very neat relationships that have been established.'
Though Boling is in charge of the shelter, there are many teams of people who help operate the site, from taking care of laundry, to transport to the simple act of hosting.
'The church is 100 percent behind the shelter,' Boling said. 'It just furthers our mission of reaching the world one person at a time, as we learn to think, love and live like Jesus Christ. Christ gave us an example of how to live, and it's something that he himself did.
'It's one of the many ministries where we try to get outside the walls of our church to reach our community.'