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Ashland One Site delayed, winter shelter permit denied

Ashland -- The permit to operate the winter shelter from a semi-permanent location was denied Tuesday by the county.

Last fall, Options for Helping Residents of Ashland applied for the permit to operate the winter shelter from mid-November to mid-April of the vacant Baptist Church building located at 2082 E. Main St. If approved, they could operate during the winter season from this location for the next few years.

OHRA President Ken Gudger said he has not received an official denial but was notified by City Administrator Kelly Madding after she found the document online.

“We are extremely disappointed in that decision and OHRA is considering its options with the county,” Gudger said. “We need to make sure that those people living in the shelter this winter season, that they’re not adversely affected. This is not just a decision against OHRA, this is a decision against those in poverty.”

He said the board of directors will have to weigh their options on whether they can appeal the decision within the 12-day limit.

“An appeal takes money and effort and time,” Gudger said. “We don’t have an abundance of money, effort and time. We put those resources into running these shelters.”

At the City Council meeting Tuesday, Madding updated the council will the permit denial. She said the reasons were mostly based upon two major concerns from the county.

The first was that people who are turned away from the shelter may decide to camp on the property. The second was response time for the Jackson County Sheriff Office might be delayed to county residents because they are the authority since the property is outside city limits.

Shelter consultant, Phil Johncock, said he doesn’t understand why those are reasons for denial.

They haven’t had one case this season of people camping outside, he said, and the only people that show up to the shelter are the guests who have been vetted and given acceptance.

He also said that there’s an agreement that if the situation involved calling the police was a non-emergency Ashland police could respond if the JCSO was busy.

He said they haven’t had any emergency calls this season and have only had two non-emergency calls to the police. He said that agreement was attached in the application.

Johncock said there were two drafted letters of acceptance in December which included unacceptable decisions and so OHRA asked for a rewrite.

He said some of the unacceptable conditions included only operating the shelter when the temperature is at or below 20 degrees.

“That’s only about five days out of the year,” Johncock said. “We just couldn’t accept that.”

He said another condition they couldn’t OK was a limited amount of time that the guests could be there. He said they asked for 6 p.m. to 10 a.m. to allow for case management, a new method implemented this year which has helped house several guests already.

He said the property is nearly ready to operate as the shelter facility and OHRA has purchased a mini bus from the Ashland School District which would transport guests to and from the site. He said they have hopes that the bus would transport guests to educational and health programs in the day to help get them back on their feet.

He said if OHRA decides to appeal the decision, they would need to raise $250 and find legal help.

He said there’s been a lot of success with the new winter shelter model this year. He also said every guest in the shelter has health care.

Volunteers are working to get guests access to cellphones, bus passes, P.O. boxes and other resources many homeless don’t have access to which can aid in finding work and housing.

“The shelter gives us the ability to give them at least a roof over their heads,” Johncock said. “Now that we know that Onesite probably isn’t going to happen how do we help our folks get housed?”

ContactInfo@WinterShelters.comor 702-518-8756 for more information about the shelter and volunteering.

Contact Tidings reporter Caitlin Fowlkes at cfowlkes@rosebudmedia.com or 541-776-4496. Follow her on Twitter @cfowlkes6.

File photoThe permit to operate the winter shelter from a semi-permanent location was denied Tuesday by the county.