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Motel for fire survivors pitched

A Medford motel could be transformed by this summer into emergency housing for Almeda fire survivors and homeless people.

Rogue Retreat, a Medford nonprofit involved in providing shelter for the homeless, is working on a proposal to buy The Redwood Inn at 722 N. Riverside Ave., for $2.35 million and converting it into 47 suites with kitchens.

The organization is working with the Medford Urban Renewal Agency to apply for a portion of the $30 million Project Turnkey grants designed to aid fire victims in Oregon.

Rogue Retreat will apply for a grant from MURA for about $500,000 to put prefabricated kitchenettes in 31 units. The remaining 16 units already have kitchens.

“A lot of pieces have yet to come together, but it’s exciting to see what’s coming on the horizon,” said Matthew Vorderstrasse, Rogue Retreat development director.

He said his organization is pushing for an accelerated timeline to get fire survivors into the converted motel by this summer, or fall at the latest.

He said the goal is to put fire survivors in rooms as quickly as they can be remodeled.

The units would have a mix of fire survivors who got burned out of their homes, and homeless people who were displaced by the fire.

Rogue Retreat currently offers shelters for the homeless such as an urban campground in north Medford, the Kelly Shelter in downtown Medford and Hope Village on West McAndrews Road.

Up to 100 people, including couples and small families, could be housed in the renovated motel, he said.

“It would be the biggest project we’ve ever been involved in,” Vorderstrasse said.

The units will be rented on a sliding scale based on the incomes of the residents.

Vorderstrasse said the two-story motel is in generally good shape, but it will need improvements such as better disability access, flooring and other upgrades.

Harry Weiss, director of MURA, said the MURA board will discuss the project at its Thursday meeting along with the proposal to provide a $500,000 grant to Rogue Retreat from the $18 million set aside to improve the Liberty Park neighborhood that is just north of downtown.

Weiss said Jackson County doesn’t have enough housing for people in various socioeconomic levels.

“Unfortunately the Almeda fire helped us hit a tipping point,” he said.

While Jackson County could use more emergency shelter beds for homeless people, it lacks sufficient transitional housing, which would be the next step beyond the shelters.

“There is no place for those people to graduate to,” said Weiss said, who added that hotel conversions are happening throughout the country.

For instance, The Inn at the Commons is going to be converted into a 132-unit apartment complex.

The Oregon Legislature set aside $65 million for Project Turnkey, and $30 million of that is specifically for counties and tribal communities impacted by the 2020 wildfires.

The counties impacted by fires include Clackamas, Douglas, Jackson, Klamath, Lane, Linn, Lincoln and Marion.

The money is specifically for the purpose of acquiring motels and hotels for use as shelters for people experiencing homelessness or who are at risk of homelessness.

A 50-room Super 8 motel in Ashland will also be converted into a shelter for fire victims after Options for Helping Residents of Ashland received a $4.2 million grant from Project Turnkey.

Even though the county already received one grant, state Rep. Pam Marsh, D-Ashland, said she thinks the Medford project should receive considerable support.

“Jackson County is a place of high priority,” said Marsh, who helped push for Project Turnkey. “We know we have a crisis on our streets.”

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or dmann@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @reporterdm.

Jamie Lusch / Mail TribuneRogue Retreat is working on a proposal to buy The Redwood Inn Motel in Medford and turn it into a shelter for Almeda fire survivors and homeless people.