$145,168 in grants possible for local outreach programs

The Ashland City Council will be asked on Wednesday to approve federal grant funding to each of four low-income and homeless outreach programs that want to expand the scope of their work in Ashland.

The Ashland Housing Commission voted unanimously to allocate about $145,168 to the four organizations, which includes setting aside money to relocate the Ashland Food Bank and to expand the Maslow Project's outreach program for homeless and low-income youth in the Ashland School District.

Because of language in the guidelines of city-allocated Community Development Block Grant funding, which limits distribution to one public service project per year, the Maslow Project was initially not going to be recommended to receive funding, in favor of funding St. Vincent De Paul's emergency rent and utility assistance program.

Commissioner Brett Ainsworth introduced a motion to request that the City Council allow funding for both projects, as well as reserving $101,168 for the Ashland Food Bank's move to the former KFC/A&W building on Clover Lane in south Ashland, pending the organization raise an additional $62,000 by May 2013. Also, the motion was to provide $20,000 for Living Opportunities to renovate its Ashland Community Employment Services building on Normal Street.

Both food bank and Living Opportunities applications were classified as capital improvement projects, which allows both to be funded.

In addition to the CDBG funds and fundraising, the food bank will need to secure about $300,000 from other grants to afford leasing the building.

It will now be up to the city council to decide whether to allow both public service projects to be funded at its next meeting is April 3.

If both project are approved, Maslow will receive $10,000 to allow its current part-time case manager at Ashland High School to work five days a week, as opposed to two. Also, St. Vincent De Paul will receive $14,000 of its requested $24,000 to help needy families with rental assistance.

The total cost of the Maslow case manager at the high school is $26,000, to fund the position from July 2012 through June 2013. Most of the remaining costs of the program are being matched by Maslow, with contributions from anonymous donors.

"I would really like to plug the Maslow Project and the $10,000 for them," said councilor Carol Voisin. "We do have serious, serious youth issues in Ashland."

Dennis Mihocko, executive director of St. Vincent De Paul, said the organization spends about $800 for each person it helps, meaning that it will be able to provide assistance to about 18 people as opposed to 30 if doesn't receive its full request.

"Honestly, we're going to be happy with anything we get," he said.

Maslow has similar programs in the Medford and Rogue River school districts, which ranked the highest for percentage of homeless students in 2010-11 behind the Butte Falls School District.

During last school year, Ashland had identified 99 homeless students in kindergarten through 12th grade out of a total of 2,804, but Maslow case managers believe there may be as many at 150 by the 2014-2015 school year, its report said.

Mary Ferrell, executive director of the Maslow Project, said the term "homeless" in school district language is broad, and accounts for students who may have a roof to sleep under. They could be couch surfing, staying in a hotel room, camping, or staying away from their family, she said.

Reach reporter Sam Wheeler at 541-499-1470 or email swheeler@dailytidings.com.

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