Homeless needs

Since the closing of Ashland's only homeless center April 30, organizers say they'd like to wait and assess exactly what's needed before any big changes are made.

Sharon Schreiber, director of Interfaith Care Community of Medford, said the board of directors unanimously voted in March to shutter the center, citing stronger needs in other parts of the county.

The ICCM oversees and partially funds Interfaith Care Community of Ashland.

"In the next few weeks, people will take a look at resources available and what kind of new programs might need to be put into place," said Graham Lewis, operations manager of First United Methodist Church. "The good news is that people are now paying attention to the issue," he said.

Lewis said organizers would like to figure out a way to help people work their way off the street.

"We don't want to enable people who aren't willing to work toward self improvement," he said. "But we need to develop a plan so that people who do want to get off the streets have a way to do that."

Ashland Police Chief Terry Holderness said the biggest problem his department is going to face due to ICCA's closure is finding services.

"If we run into people who need assistance, we might have trouble finding the services they need," he said. "We've been calling around to see what's available out there and we're putting together a resource book. So we will be able to help people &

just not as fast and easily as we did when ICCA was open."

Holderness has arranged a May 22 meeting with Ashland's faith community and the United Way of Jackson County.

"We need to talk about what other resources are available out there," he said, adding that he was doing everything he could to try and help with the transition.

Reaction to closure

Ashland City Councilor Russ Silbiger said it was "a real shame" ICCA closed its doors.

"I thought the services they were trying to provide to the homeless community was valuable and will be difficult to replace," he said.

"I'm sure there's definitely going to be ramifications because of the closure, but we can't know what they are going to be at this point," Silbiger said. "The community as a whole is going to have to look at what can be done. I thought it was an advantage that ICCA was run by a nonprofit and not an enterprise the city was handling."

Ashland City Councilor Cate Hartzell, who also works for Oregon's Department of Human Services, said many of the service providers who help the homeless are based out of Medford, not Ashland.

She said Ashland has some food, clothing and housing assistance.

"But when you talk about drug treatment, a homeless person more than likely isn't going to participate in OnTrack treatment in Ashland, which is more like group counseling for DUII offenders," she said.

Hartzell said with most of the services for the homeless being based in Medford, the community needs to figure out a way to at least transport people to those services in Medford.

"But if possible, we'd like to get those same services in Ashland," she said.

The city of Ashland, during its last fiscal year, approved $119,000 social service grants to 24 agencies or programs, few of them based in Ashland. Lee Tuneberg, director of administrative services in Ashland, said the city awarded ICCA a $13,600 grant last fiscal year, but the money had not been distributed yet. He said the money would go back into the general fund.

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