Homeless family housed in motel

A homeless Ashland family with a small boy has found shelter through the holidays after individuals and the ACCESS social services organization stepped forward to pay for a motel stay, according to ACCESS Executive Director Jackie Schad.

Schad said she hopes the family members will work with ACCESS and other organizations to find a long-term solution to their plight.

"The help they can get will depend on the goals they want to set for themselves," Schad said.

While there are never enough resources to meet all needs, Schad said groups such as ACCESS, Community Works, the Salvation Army and Maslow Project offer a range of programs to help homeless people.

The family had been staying in shelters staffed by volunteers in Ashland churches and city-owned buildings. Different churches and a city building — usually Pioneer Hall near Lithia Park — rotate as de facto homeless shelters four nights each week.

However, after the Ashland City Council voted in mid-December to reaffirm its ban on minors in shelters, the family with the little boy did not come to a Dec. 19 shelter night at Pioneer Hall.

Volunteers at the shelter and City Administrator Dave Kanner, who dropped in for a visit at the shelter that night, said they would not have made the family leave if they had shown up.

The next day, Kanner began reaching out to try and find help for the family.

The clash between the city's ban on minors in city shelters and the volunteers' stated unwillingness to turn minors away has not been resolved.

Kanner said this week that the city and the volunteers have a formal agreement to operate shelter nights in city buildings according to city rules.

"If they don't like the terms, they can come back and ask for changes," he said. "So far, they haven't done that."

A majority of councilors reaffirmed the ban on children earlier this month after noting that homeless people who use the Ashland shelters are not screened and the city cannot guarantee the safety of children.

The city also faces liability risk if anyone is harmed.

The churches do allow children in their buildings on shelter nights.

The city has provisions to allow children in city buildings overnight when it offers emergency shelter. Emergency shelter nights are triggered when temperatures fall to 20 degrees or less.

Volunteers said children are rarely seen in Ashland shelters, although families are more common when travelers stranded by bad conditions on the Siskiyou Pass seek shelter in town.

Schad said that people, including families, should reach out for help when they find themselves homeless or at risk of homelessness.

Representatives from social services groups often attend the Uncle Food's Diner free community meal for low-income and homeless people in Ashland, she noted.

The meal is held from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. on Tuesdays at the United Methodist Church, 175 N. Main St.

Schad said even if social services representatives are not at the Uncle Food's Diner meal, volunteers can connect people with organizations.

"If people want help, there are organizations out there that can help," she said.

More help is on the way in Ashland.

ACCESS and the group Options for Homeless Residents of Ashland are in the midst of creating a daytime help center for homeless and low-income people with the help of a two-year, $100,000 grant from the city.

Staff reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-479-8199 or vlaldous@yahoo.com.

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