Housing, human services commission formed, will coordinate strategies

The city of Ashland is merging two separate committees that worked on housing and homeless issues in order to form a new committee that will deal with affordable housing, homelessness, poverty and related issues in a coordinated way.

City Council dissolved the Ashland Housing Commission earlier this month and voted to form a new Housing and Human Services Commission.

The Housing Commission's main focus has been providing affordable housing for low- and middle-income people.

Councilors plan to dissolve the Ashland Homelessness Steering Committee, as well.

The new commission will tackle a host of issues, including developing housing and human services programs in a town with high housing costs, a visible homeless population and families and others struggling under the radar.

The nine-member commission will likely break into subcommittees to work on different issues, said Regina Ayars, who chaired the Housing Commission and is a member of the Homelessness Committee.

"I think this is a good decision to combine these two organizations," Ayars said.

Homelessness Committee Co-Chair Rich Rohde said nine members are needed on the new commission to address the many issues it is tasked with addressing.

"We are excited about this opportunity to join forces with the Housing Commission, but we understand we have a very big mission in front of us," Rohde said.

Other tasks for the new commission include encouraging public and private sector cooperation to expand economic opportunities, investigating outside funding sources, monitoring the community's housing needs, promoting a variety of housing types and educating people about existing utility, medical, transportation and food-assistance programs.

City Councilor Pam Marsh said she is pleased that the members of the housing and homelessness panels worked out merger details after councilors in April endorsed an idea for a new committee to work on housing and human services issues in a coordinated way.

"We basically told them to change what they do, and they embraced that with enthusiasm and vision," Marsh said.

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

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