Council to look at a weekly shelter

The Ashland City Council will hold a special meeting on Wednesday to consider opening a city building one night per week to serve as a winter shelter from January through April.

The council will meet at 7 p.m. in the Ashland Civic Center Council Chambers, 1175 E. Main St.

The Rogue Valley Unitarian Fellowship and Temple Emek Shalom have asked city officials provide a city-owned building once each week. In turn, the congregations offered to provide trained volunteers to staff the weekly winter shelter.

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

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

If city officials do decide to open a building for shelter, using Pioneer Hall on Thursday nights would be least disruptive for activities held in city buildings, according to the Ashland Parks and Recreation Department.

The department uses Pioneer Hall and the Community Center, located on Winburn Way across from Lithia Park, and The Grove on East Main Street for recreation classes. It also rents out those spaces for events.

The city already has a policy that allows it to open a city building for shelter when temperatures drop to 20 degrees or below, of if other weather conditions exist that are hazardous to life.

City buildings are rarely opened under that provision.

In mid-December, a majority of councilors rejected a proposal to open a city building when temperatures drop to 33 degrees or below, noting the city was not prepared to handle the large increase in shelter nights that policy change would create.

City staff members have proposed a number of safeguards if a city building is used for shelter one night each week.

They include requiring Rogue Valley Unitarian Fellowship and Temple Emek Shalom to obtain insurance, certify volunteers and create separate sleeping spaces for single men, women and families.

Showers and food service would not be allowed, and dogs would have to be left outside.

Many people who use the shelters at the First Presbyterian Church of Ashland and Trinity Episcopal Church warm up with hot beverages and food, such as instant oatmeal.

A maximum of 25 people would be allowed in the city shelter and one female, plus one male volunteer, would be required.

An additional male volunteer would be required if there were more than 10 male guests.

Shelter volunteers would have to pass criminal background checks and receive training on emergency, communications and mental health plans that would be created for the shelter.

For more information on the shelter proposal, visit

Reach Vickie Aldous at 541-479-8199 or

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