Ashland to investigate costs of homeless center

The city of Ashland will investigate the costs and possible liabilities of starting a day center for homeless people, but without any promises that it will provide seed money to launch such a venture.

During a Monday night City Council study session, members Dennis Slattery and Greg Lemhouse suggested city staff members, including those in the legal department, should gather information about a possible day-use center.

A majority of councilors agreed.

"If we don't take this step, we won't know what can or can't be done," Lemhouse said.

"It may be the council could decide we're not going to do this at all."

Lemhouse said the purpose of the center would be to help people escape from homelessness and to prevent homelessness.

Slattery said the city would need to team up with a nonprofit organization such as the Salvation Army.

Part of the staff's mission will be to look at potential properties for a day use center.

Councilor David Chapman was adamantly opposed to the mission, while Councilor Russ Silbiger was reluctant to take the action.

"It's not appropriate for the city to approach a landowner and talk about renting property," Chapman said. "We're not going to run this thing. I'm not interested."

Chapman said a nonprofit group should be investigating the issue and talking with property owners. Perhaps at that time the city of Ashland could give a grant to help start the center, he said.

The City Council cannot have formal votes or make decisions during study sessions, but they can give directions to staff members and give general guidance.

Several years ago, Ashland had a day-use center that provided a living room, laundry facilities and other services to homeless people. It was run by the Interfaith Care Community of Ashland.

The center shut down in part because some said there were more families in need in Medford, and Ashland had too many young, able-bodied people who were voluntarily homeless.

The center served a broad range of clients, from the voluntarily "home-free" homeless to chronic alcoholics to a young homeless couple with a newborn baby.

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

Correction: The headline on this story has been updated to better reflect the nature of the center under consideration.

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