Homeless issues on Ashland agenda

Homelessness issues will take center stage during an Ashland City Council meeting tonight.

The meeting begins at 7 p.m. in the Ashland Civic Center Council Chambers, 1175 E. Main St.

Councilors will discuss whether to award $50,000 per year for the next two years to create a homelessness help center, and whether to extend the life of the Ashland Homelessness Steering Committee, allow it to expire, or alter its mission.

In late 2012, the city offered $50,000 per year for two years for a social services organization to launch a center to help people in need, including homeless people and those at risk of falling into homelessness.

Organizations were limited to spending the money on a facility.

None stepped forward to apply for the grant funding, leading the council to retool the idea.

Councilors will decide tonight whether to offer $50,000 annually for the next two years again but allow more flexibility.

A group could use the money for operations, for example, and could run a help center from an RV or piggyback off another organization's building, rather than leasing space just for a help center.

On another agenda item related to homelessness, councilors will decide the future of the Homelessness Steering Committee, which was created in April 2011 with a sunset date of April 2012.

The council extended the life of the committee for another year in April 2012, and must decide this month whether to keep the committee alive.

If the council decides to extend its life again, committee members could be given new responsibilities — including creating a veterans' court, developing a safety program for women and children who sleep in their cars, and evaluating Ashland's system of rotating overnight homeless shelters three nights each week among churches and a city building.

The homelessness committee also could potentially be merged with the long-standing Ashland Housing Commission.

Vickie Aldous is a reporter for the Ashland Daily Tidings.


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