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Another piece of the housing puzzle

Rogue Retreat’s proposal to buy a Medford motel and convert it into housing units is a logical next step in addressing the homeless issue and helping Almeda fire survivors at the same time. The Medford Urban Renewal Agency and the state’s Project Turnkey program should give the project favorable consideration.

The nonprofit agency already operates a variety of shelter operations to serve the homeless population, including the Kelly Shelter, the Hope Village tiny house project and the urban campground off Biddle Road. Now Rogue Retreat wants to take advantage of state grant money to purchase the Redwood Inn on North Riverside Avenue for $2.35 million and create 47 suites with kitchens.

The Oregon Legislature’s Emergency Board appropriated $65 million in November 2020 to acquire financially distressed motels and convert them to dwelling units to address housing needs generated by the COVID-19 pandemic and the September wildfires. The Oregon Community Foundation administers Project Turnkey.

One grant has already been awarded to Jackson County — $4.2 million to Options for Helping Residents of Ashland to purchase and renovate a former Super 8 Motel at 2350 Ashland St. State Rep. Pam Marsh, who worked to get Project Turnkey approved, says she thinks a second project locally stands a good chance of approval because of the continuing need for temporary housing for fire victims.

Rogue Retreat is also asking for help from the Medford Urban Renewal Agency, which has committed to spending $18 million on improvements to the Liberty Park neighborhood north of downtown. MURA will consider awarding $500,000 to the Redwood Inn project at its meeting today.

There are multiple reasons why this project is worthy of local and state support.

First, the need for housing for Almeda fire survivors who lost homes will continue for some time as the cleanup and rebuilding efforts continue.

Second, people who were already homeless before the fire and living along the Bear Creek Greenway were displaced as well. And efforts by the city of Medford to move homeless encampments off the Greenway to reduce wildfire risk are displacing more.

Some shelter options exist, thanks to Rogue Retreat’s efforts, but what’s missing is transitional housing. People living in Hope Village or the urban campground are expected to move toward securing permanent housing, but there is no place for them to go after the emergency shelter while they work to rebuild their lives and find jobs that allow them to pay market rent.

This project would provide that transitional step. In the long term, as fire survivors move back to rebuilt homes or find other housing, that will open spaces for people to graduate from shelter living.

Finally, creating new housing in the Liberty Park area will meet one of MURA’s goals for the neighborhood.

This project strikes us as a win-win-win, for the fire recovery, help for homeless residents working their way up, and the revitalization of the Liberty Park neighborhood.

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