New Police Substation Opening in South Ashland with Homeless Shelter Goals
Police Substation Opening in South Ashland Shopping Center; Graham Outlines Homeless Shelter Goals.
By David Runkel
In response to complaints by South Ashland residents and businesses about increasing crime, the Police Department is working on opening “an office” at the shopping center in the 2300 block of Ashland Street, Acting City Manager Sabrina Cotta had informed City Council.
A problem of public drug use in the area has been highlighted by at least four suspected fentanyl-related overdose cases, including three deaths, this year on the shopping center grounds.
The office will be across Ashland Street from the 52-bed Opportunities for Housing, Resources and Assistance (OHRA) homeless shelter and a block away from the city’s recently opened 32-cot 24/7 shelter.
Increased policing of the area is one of nine “good neighbor” goals outlined by Mayor Tonya Graham for operation of the city’s shelter. The aim, she said, is to ensure “that the rate of certain crimes (household theft, trespassing, drug dealing etc.) as well as drug and alcohol use and overdoses, is no higher in this section of town than in the rest of Ashland.”
The police department has already increased presence “and is currently working on an office in the Albertson’s shopping center (Suds ur duds site),” Cotta reported.
In a report on the shelter submitted to Council Mayor Graham said, “By having clear goals, the City and community will be able to identify next steps for a variety of issues, develop a master plan for the facility and site, and effectively assess progress over time. Through the establishment of these goals, and taking meaningful steps toward meeting them, the City will ensure that the facility is a good neighbor and a benefit to this neighborhood, which has seen escalating challenges linked to homelessness over the past few years.”
In a separate memo to Council, Cotta said that due to lack of funds and other considerations, immediate implementation of some of Graham’s goals cannot be met.
Graham’s goals include:
Provide immediate safety for Ashland residents who are experiencing homelessness
Reduce and maintain reduced levels of the garbage and litter found on neighborhood streets, around businesses, in Clay Street Park, and along the bike path and train tracks.
Provide a pathway to long-term housing for Ashland residents who are experiencing homelessness.
Improve the sense of safety in the neighborhood, especially along the bike path under the overpass and at Siskiyou School.
Support the dignity of Ashland residents who are experiencing homelessness by providing for their basic needs on a temporary basis so that they can transition to more permanent housing.
Reduce the risk of wildfire in the neighborhood caused by cigarette smoking and illegal cooking.
Provide a means by which Ashland residents who are experiencing homelessness can contribute back to the community as they are receiving services at the facility.
Invest in ensuring that the rate of certain crimes (household theft, trespassing, drug dealing etc.) as well as drug and alcohol use and overdoses, is no higher in this section of town than in the rest of Ashland.
Support economic development and public art efforts that build, energize, and beautify south Ashland, which welcomes visitors as a gateway to the city.
The mayor also told Councilors the the neighborhood is asking Council to consider the following next steps:
1. Create a regular system for the city to reduce and remove: garbage, litter, biohazard waste, drug paraphernalia, furniture and discarded items, human waste, or any other public safety hazards on neighborhood streets, around businesses, in Clay Street Park, and along the bike path and train tracks, and throughout south Ashland.
2. Provide safety in South Ashland, especially along the bike path under the overpass and at Siskiyou School but also throughout the entirety of south Ashland through strong policy, ordinances and empowering law enforcement.
3. Provide education to businesses and property owners about ordinances and trespass processes.
Cotta noted that only $32,000 remains in the city’s current fiscal year budget “to address needs around the unhoused.”
As a result, citizen requests for lighting of the bike path and on the Clay Street overpass to illuminate the bike path that travels beneath the Ashland Street bridge depends upon Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) and availability of funding. On the request for improved fencing along the bike path, Cotta said the city is currently discussing how to replace the wooden section of fence with chain link as well as which department will reprioritize workload to address this.
Relocation of porta potties and the shower and laundry trailer to the front of the shelter cannot occur because utilities cannot be relocated, along with Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements and fire response egress needs. As for the neighborhood clean-up request, Cotta said “Parks & Recreation will make clean-up supplies and waivers available in December as well as spread the word through their established volunteer groups. The Mayor will coordinate the effort from there for volunteers. Public Works and the City Manager’s Office can coordinate the pick-up of the debris/trash.”