$2 Million Homeless Shelter Future in Doubt
By David Runkel


Ashland Fire Marshal Ralph Sartain yesterday allowed the city’s $2 million homeless shelter to remain open until April 1, but declared it “will not open again until the building is brought fully up to code.”


The former office building at 2200 Ashland Street needs major improvements to meet the city fire code including installation of a sprinkler system, fire alarms, a fire hydrant and enlargement of windows to allow for safe escapes in case of fire. While an architect has outlined “the upgrades required” no cost estimates have been made public and funding for the required changes is not included in the city’s biennial budget.


Using authority under Gov. Tina Kotek’s homeless emergency declarations, Sartain issued a 71-day temporary occupancy permit last Nov. 1 and Tuesday signed an order extending that permit for another 81 days.


The shelter provides housing for up to 32 people, including children, on a 24/7 basis.  Meals and counseling are provided by Opportunities for Housing, Resources and Assistance (OHRA) under a $200,000 contract for the first 71 days of operation which expired yesterday.  A new contract for the next 81 days was signed Monday.  The city did not release the cost.


“The city is currently working with Access, Inc. to secure state funding for continued operation,” according to a statement released to The Chronicle by the city’s communications director Dorinda Cottle in response to questions submitted to Acting City Manager Subrina Cotta.  


Under a separate contract OHRA is also managing an emergency inclement weather overnight shelter in the garage of the building.  It is open from 6 p.m. to 9 a.m. on nights when the temperature is predicted to fall below 32 degrees. To save money, Cotta has proposed not opening the emergency shelter until the temperature falls below 25, the standard used by Medford and Grants Pass.  Council ran out of time to consider this proposal last month and it is not on the agenda for next week’s meeting.


Purchase of the former brick and stucco office building, located near the ShopNKart market, was unanimously approved by City Council last October without an appraisal or a fire code inspection.  A state grant of $1.4 million was used for a down payment and the city agreed to pay the other $600,000, plus an estimated $254,000 in interest charges, over the next 20 years to Coming Attractions theater chain, owner of the building.   Jackson county’s assessed current value of the property last fall was $1.347,350. 


Opening of the shelter was strongly opposed by some residents and businesses in the city’s southeastern region.  OHRA operates a 52-bed homeless shelter and rehabilitation program in a former motel just two blocks from the city’s facility, leading opponents to claim that the city was concentrating its homeless programs in one sector.


The Council’s Housing and Human Services Advisory Committee has been charged with developing a homeless master plan, including the future of the 2200 Ashland street shelter.    That plan could be before the Council as early as June, Mayor Tonya Graham says. 


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