Yes, the extra space and the fine-tuned HVAC and the climate-controlled pantry are all nice. But ask Roseburg Dream Center Director Tim Edmondson what really excites him about the center’s new location and he’ll tell you it’s the portable shower trailer he can now park out front once a week.
Combine that with the expanded clothes closet inside and the center now has a winning combination for clients, Edmondson said.
“We take something like a shower for granted, but it’s critical,” he said. “With a shower and new clothes, it’s like you have a new start.”
The Dream Center opened the doors Monday at its new location at 2555 NE Diamond Lake Blvd., and people are already showing up seeking food, clothing and a shower, Edmondson said.
For the past several years the Dream Center had been located in the basement of the Foundation Fellowship Church on 813 SE Lane Ave. in downtown Roseburg. At the beginning of August, the church notified the Dream Center that it needed the basement for other uses, and the center had 30 days to find another home.
Edmondson found the Diamond Lake building, which at 7,500 square feet is about 2,000 square feet bigger than the old location. He had hoped to open the center on Sept. 1, but permits and getting the building ready took a little longer than planned.
Despite that, Edmondson said he had nothing but praise for city officials.
“The city was great. They really worked with us,” he said.
The move was also bolstered by state legislation passed this summer that made it easier to open homeless shelters and service centers, Edmondson said. Without that legislation it could have taken the Dream Center several more months to open, he said.
The basement location at the former site presented challenges for the Dream Center — such as access for people with disabilities — and those challenges grew more acute with the restrictions put in place in connection with the coronavirus pandemic.
The center shut down for two weeks to assess the situation, and when it reopened, Edmondson closed the basement to guests and set up operations outside. That meant fewer clothes and other items being handed out, sack lunches instead of sit-down meals, and repeated trips up and down the steep stairs to the basement for Edmondson and his remaining volunteers.
In addition to the portable showers, the new location has enough space to provide more services, Edmonson said. For example, on Mondays as many as nine helping agencies, including St. Vincent de Paul, IV Alliance and Department of Human Services set up shop to help clients.
Also on Mondays, the Dream Center hands out boxes of nonperishable and frozen food that is intended to last a month. The center also hands out sack lunches as well as clothing and other items.
The center’s activities in downtown Roseburg were not without some controversy.
The Dream Center came under fire this spring following a spate of vandalism downtown, including several storefront windows broken. One window was smashed at The Hub Barbershop, 746 SE Jackson St., just yards from the old Dream Center location.
At least one business owner blamed the vandalism on The Dream Center and its clientele.
Edmondson responded by saying while he understood the frustration, it was misplaced.
“The homeless were in the downtown area long before the Dream Center,” Edmondson said at the time. “The Dream Center is helping these human beings with basic needs, like food and clothing.
Edmondson said he expects all that to be behind the Dream Center now with the move out east. He said he has spoken with several neighbors in the area and most have been receptive to the new center.
Edmondson said a bus line that services Diamond Lake Boulevard should make it accessible to those used to going to the old location downtown. But he also said he worries about the ability of the elderly and those with mental illnesses to make it out to the new location.
Edmondson also said he expects more people who are not homeless but simply struggling to make ends meet, especially with the economic downturn associated with COVID-19, to come to the Dream Center for help.
“There’s a lot of need in this town and it’s not just among the homeless,” he said.
The dream center is open 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., Monday through Thursday. In the winter it will serve as a warming center when the weather dips below freezing, just as the old location had done.