Temporary Ashland Shelter Occupancy Permit Issued at Last Minute; Shelter Cleared to Open Today

Temporary Ashland Shelter Occupancy Permit Issued at Last Minute; Shelter Cleared to Open Today 

By David Runkel

Ashland Fire Chief Ralph Sartain yesterday afternoon issued a temporary, short-term occupancy permit for the city’s new homeless shelter allowing it to open on schedule today.

Sartain acted after a mid-afternoon inspection of the former office building at 2200 Ashland Street that does not meet fire code regulations.  “I have inspected the shelter location and I have approved occupancy as they have completed all necessary design requirements,” he said.
The permit expires on Jan. 10, 2024.

Requirements for the building to continue to be used after date are “full compliance with all building and fire code provisions, including but not limited to a change of occupancy permit, a NFPA 13 (National Fire Protection Association) fire sprinkler system, NFPA 72 fire alarm, fire hydrant and full life safety requirements,” Sartain ruled.

Other conditions of the 71-day permit, all of which have been met, include:


1. The maximum number of occupants cannot exceed one for each 35 square feet of sleeping areas. The city has installed 33 cots.  Sartain’s conditions allow for use of only 32 of them for homeless people and four for staff. 
2. Installation of fire alarms in all rooms for sleeping or a complete approved smoke detection system in all rooms.  Installation of alarms or a detection system in the garage area which will be used for emergency overnight sheltering. 
3. Installation of  carbon monoxide alarms in all sleeping areas and the emergency shelter space.
4. Provisions of two means of egress.  Exit pathways must be unobstructed and readily accessible. 
5. Installation of emergency exit signs, intertwined with emergency lighting.
6. Smoking and open flames shall be prohibited at all times and if a smoking area is allowed it must be at least 50 feet from the building 
7. Installation of six fire extinguishers, five inside and one in the exterior smoking area. 
8. Creation of an approved emergency evacuation plan and maintenance of it covering the building floor plans with sleeping areas clearly identified, room size, egress paths, and life safety systems. 
9. A list of nightly occupants must be maintained and be available to emergency personnel. 
10. A certified fire watch employee must be on duty with inspections every 15 minutes. 
11. Fire safety documents must be maintained.
12. Exterior access gating must allow automatic fire department access and meet fire department design standards. 
13. Change of hardware on all doors to meet design standards for single-movement access and thumb and key locks on access doors to meet fire safety standards.
14. Each sleeping area must be provided with a flashlight and staff must have flashlights available.
15. The western garage space can be used as an emergency/inclement shelter.


City workers and some from Options for Housing, Resources and Assistance, Inc. (OHRA) have been working the past six weeks on meeting fire code provisions and other building improvements.  The big ticket items, however, need to be addressed in the coming two months for the building to be used after Jan. 10, the ending date on the governor’s emergency declaration. 

City officials are hoping that this date will be extended and that additional state grant money will be made available for operating the facility, which has been the source of strong opposition from neighboring residents and businesses. 

OHRA’s $200,000 contract for operating the shelter runs to Jan. 10.  The city has approximately $700,000 in state grant money available to pay for repairs to the building and operation costs. 

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