City Council OKs opening Pioneer Hall for shelter

The Ashland City Council unanimously approved opening Pioneer Hall across from Lithia Park on Thursday nights to serve as a homeless shelter.

The Tuesday vote means that the shelter could open as early as Thursday of next week.

The city will absorb about $1,600 in extra insurance costs for using the city-owned building as a shelter for one night each week through April.

Pets will not be allowed, and overnight guests will have to sign a waiver stating they are at least 18 years old.

The council action means Ashland will now have a winter shelter night on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.

The First Presbyterian Church of Ashland already hosts a Monday night shelter while the Trinity Episcopal Church offers shelter on Wednesday nights.

The Rogue Valley Unitarian Fellowship and Temple Emek Shalom asked city officials provide a city-owned building once each week. They will provide trained volunteers to staff Pioneer Hall on Thursday nights.

The volunteers will have to undergo criminal background checks.

Councilor Dennis Slattery said it was important to build in a number of safeguards to address insurance and liability issues, and to make sure the experimental shelter in a city building is a success.

"This cannot go wrong," said Slattery, noting that the shelter could be doomed if a major incident occurred.

The number of people using existing shelter spaces ranges from three to more than 20 each night, according to church and city records.

For the Pioneer Hall shelter night, the city is requiring that there be one male volunteer plus one female volunteer, and that an additional male volunteer be present if there are more than 10 male guests.

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

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