Ashland explores other options for homeless center

The city of Ashland is exploring flexible options for creating a homeless day center, including housing it in a recreational vehicle or in buildings around town.

Late last year, Ashland offered $50,000 annually for two years to pay lease and other facility costs for a social services group that launched a day center.

No groups stepped forward to apply for the money.

The Salvation Army estimated that leasing a center and providing a full range of services would cost $150,000 a year.

On Monday night, city councilors expressed support for rethinking the day center and making it more flexible.

The concept will go to the city's Homelessness Steering Committee for more discussion and the city could convene a group of social services agencies to get feedback, said Councilor Pam Marsh, who has been exploring the idea of a more flexible center along with Mayor John Stromberg and City Administrator Dave Kanner.

Providing services in an RV or using churches around town could free up funding for services, personnel and operating expenses, Marsh said.

"Real estate is one of our big hurdles," she said, adding that tying the homeless center concept to a single location could be the death knell for the idea.

Marsh noted that the community already has experience in providing services to homeless people at a variety of sites.

For example, a city building and two church buildings are used to provide overnight shelter three nights per week, she said.

Marsh said the city is also interested in a model in which the contracting agency wouldn't have to provide all the services and resources by itself.

"The contracting agency wouldn't have to provide everything alone. It could pull in and coordinate individuals and nonprofits from across the community," Marsh said.

Potential services at a help center could include referral to aid and services, mental health and substance abuse counseling and assessments, housing assistance, credit counseling, job skills assessment and employment preparation, showers, mail drop service, Internet access, food and distribution of bus tokens.

Marsh said she welcomes ideas from the community about a help center.

She can be reached at

Staff reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-479-8199 or

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