Ashland may retool plan for day center

City officials may retool their concept for a homeless resources day center in Ashland after no social service organizations stepped forward to apply for $100,000 in city grants to launch one.

The Medford-based branch of the Salvation Army, which was expected to apply, doesn't have the resources to run a day center at this time, said Development Director Jackie Agee.

"It's not a cheap undertaking at all," said Agee, an Ashland resident. "It would take a minimum of $150,000 per year to do it. It still makes a lot of sense, but right now we're not in a financial position to be able to do it."

In late 2012, the city put out a request for proposals to create and run a center that was meant to help homeless people escape the streets and prevent people from falling into homelessness.

The city asked organizations to consider offering services such as toilets, showers, laundry facilities, clothing, storage lockers, job-skills training, mental health and substance abuse counseling, transitional housing information and a mail-drop service and address for people sending out job applications.

The $100,000 would have been spread over two years to lease a building and pay facility expenses.

Agee said the center would need two full-time employees, in part because of the case management and life-skills training proposed.

Agee said the Salvation Army has directed more of its resources toward its Hope House transitional shelter in Medford, which serves men, women and families.

The organization has increased staffing there and drawn down its reserves to pay for that effort, she said.

While the city's funding wouldn't pay all the costs of a day center, Agee said she believes there would be community support and funding offered to help operate it if one did open.

Councilor Pam Marsh suggested Tuesday that an adjusted request for proposals might garner a different response. Councilors directed city staff to query organizations on why they didn't submit proposals.

Former Mayor Alan DeBoer, who financed a day center on Ashland Street in the 2000s before it was closed because of problems, said America is not doing a good job helping people with substance abuse and mental health problems.

He said people with alcohol and drug dependency need professional help, but they will often abuse assistance until they hit rock bottom and decide for themselves that they need to change.

DeBoer said he doesn't feel qualified to offer solutions to the complex problem of homelessness, and will leave that to others.

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