With no applicants to run day center for homeless, city must rethink idea

The city of Ashland would have to provide significantly more money or scale down its ideas for services if it wants a social services provider to launch a homeless day center in town.

Those are the results of city staff research into why no organizations applied for $100,000 in city grants spread over two years to start a center.

"They did not feel the city was offering enough money," said City Administrator Dave Kanner.

The money was meant to cover facility costs, not staffing, equipment or materials.

In a request for proposals to run a center, the city had outlined various services that organizations could propose offering.

All the services were not required, but some organizations may have thought they were, Kanner said.

Ashland City Councilors are still uncertain whether they want to take another stab at attracting an organization, or even exactly what they would want the day center to offer.

Some councilors would like the center to focus narrowly on homeless people or those at risk of falling into homelessness, while others want the center to serve a broad spectrum of community members who are having trouble making ends meet.

In a Monday evening study session, councilors agreed to take the issue up at a future meeting after giving Kanner, Mayor John Stromberg and City Councilor Pam Marsh time to explore the issue further and report back to the full council.

Marsh is the manager of the Ashland Emergency Food Bank.

In response to questions about why they didn't apply, organizations offered a variety of answers, most focused on funding, services and staffing needs.

While the city was offering $50,000 per year for two years, Salvation Army Development Director Jackie Agee said running a center would cost a minimum of $150,000 annually and would take two full-time workers.

Agee said the Salvation Army would envision a more modest center than the one outlined by the city.

Community Works was among the groups that also said the funding was insufficient.

Volunteers from St. Vincent de Paul, who are already reaching out to help homeless people on the streets and those at risk of falling into homelessness, said they couldn't take on the task of running a homeless center, too.

The Maslow Project, which focuses on homeless youths, said meeting youths where they already are can be more cost-effective than paying for a center.

The new group Options for Homeless Residents of Ashland said they would be interested in running a center if the city would pay all the costs for the first year, then provide $50,000 for the second year.

The organization said it could raise funds to help cover second-year costs.

Options for Homeless Residents of Ashland recommended limiting some of the services offered.

The city's ideas for services the center might offer include shower and laundry facilities, bathrooms, clothing, mental health counseling and referrals to transitional housing.

— Vickie Aldous

Read more in the Daily Tidings on Wednesday.

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