Ashland to open Pioneer Hall as homeless shelter

The building, across from Lithia Park, will open Thursday nights, joining other shelters open on Monday and Wednesday nights

The Ashland City Council unanimously approved opening Pioneer Hall across from Lithia Park on Thursday nights to serve as a homeless shelter.

The Tuesday vote means that the shelter could open as early as Jan. 10.

The city will absorb about $1,600 in extra insurance costs for using the city-owned building as a shelter for one night each week through April.

Pets will not be allowed, and overnight guests will have to sign a waiver stating they are at least 18 years old.

The council action means Ashland will now have a winter shelter open on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday nights. Mondays are run by the First Presbyterian Church of Ashland, Wednesdays by Trinity Episcopal Church.

Thursdays will be hosted at Pioneer Hall by trained volunteers from the Rogue Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship and Temple Emek Shalom. The volunteers will have to undergo criminal background checks.

Councilor Dennis Slattery said it was important to build in safeguards to address insurance and liability issues, and to make sure the experimental shelter is a success.

"This cannot go wrong," said Slattery, noting that the shelter could be doomed if a major incident occurred.

The number of people using Ashland shelters range from three to more than 20 each night, according to church and city records.

For Pioneer Hall, the city is requiring one male and one female volunteer plus an additional male volunteer when there are more than 10 male guests.

Staff reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-479-8199 or

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