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Motel to be used as homeless resource center

A Super 8 motel will become the next resource center for Options for Helping Residents of Ashland after the organization became the first recipient of state funding through Project Turnkey, administered by the Oregon Community Foundation.

The $4.2 million award is dedicated to purchasing and retrofitting the motel at 2350 Ashland St., converting some rooms to case manager offices and offering transitional shelter. The new center will prioritize those with the greatest need based on an assessment with OHRA caseworkers, including veterans, people with disabilities and those who were negatively impacted by COVID-19 or wildfires.

The Oregon Legislature Emergency Board appropriated $65 million in November 2020 to acquire “financially distressed” motels and offer noncongregate shelter following economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic and September wildfires, according to an OCF press release. As of February, 20 applicants had requested funding through Project Turnkey across 15 Oregon communities.

Amy Cuddy, Southern Oregon regional director for the OCF, described the announcement of the new OHRA center as a “milestone” for the state, and a strong example of public-private partnership.

“We’re looking to balance the due diligence that’s really required to do this well with the urgent need to shelter people,” Cuddy said.

The new center is expected to increase staff capacity, offer services such as mentorship and job coaching, and shelter people in 50 individual rooms for three to six months while case managers help pursue permanent housing options, according to OHRA Executive Director Michelle Arellano. The center is scheduled to open for limited use in mid-March, aligning with the end of the winter shelter season. Planned remodeling to the motel includes installation of an ADA-compliant elevator.

Arellano said the motel is the “ideal” location for a shelter and resource center with case management and navigation services, in a wraparound support effort alongside other community partners to transition homeless people from crisis to stability.

Six current Super 8 employees will be offered the chance to apply for jobs with OHRA, according to Cass Sinclair, senior director of programs and services.

Rep. Pam Marsh, D-Ashland, said Project Turnkey is the result of legislative work that began last summer when Oregon communities confronted some tough realities, including how thin safety nets are for homeless people and the need for state funding.

“For too long, our shelter providers have been forced to scramble for any kind of space they could find in the community,” Marsh said. “But the opportunity to throw a mat on the floor from 8 p.m. till 7 a.m. is certainly not a best practice — it is not an avenue that can help someone who has lost their mooring regain footing.”

Ashland City Councilor Tonya Graham said the project is a strong step toward meeting the needs of Ashland’s homeless population, and an example of responding to a long-standing problem during a moment of crisis. Graham noted the facility is well suited for OHRA’s purposes and located close to the bus line.

“We’ve known we have had this problem around homelessness for a long time — we have struggled to get the facilities that we need,” Graham said. “Now through this program with the state, we’re able to do something that’s going to permanently increase our ability to meet those folks’ needs.”

Contact Ashland Tidings reporter Allayana Darrow at adarrow@rosebudmedia.com or 541-776-4497 and follow her on Twitter @AllayanaD.

Allayana Darrow / Ashland TidingsThe $4.2 million award will be used to purchase and retrofit the Super 8 motel at 2350 Ashland St., converting some rooms to case manager offices and offering transitional shelter.