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Oregon House backs more shelters

The Redwood Inn in Medford is one of seven motels in the state being converted into transitional housing for fire survivors and homeless people under Project Turnkey. Another $9.7 million has been approved by the Oregon House for more projects in other counties. [Jamie Lusch / Mail Tribune]

Another $9.7 million has been set aside for emergency housing in Oregon, but this time none of the money will come to Jackson County.

In 2020, the Legislature approved $65 million for Project Turnkey, and Jackson County received almost $7 million to buy two hotels for conversion into emergency shelters.

“We had four projects that couldn’t be funded under the original Project Turnkey,” said Rep. Pam Marsh, D-Ashland. “We needed another $9.7 million.”

To fund the additional projects in Deschutes, Multnomah, Malheur and Yamhill counties, Marsh co-sponsored House Bill 2004 B, which was approved by the House this week.

The money will be used to create 132 shelter units.

“Each project reflects the needs on the ground in the particular communities,” Marsh said.

Even though Jackson County didn’t get any additional money, Marsh said she expects more wildfire relief soon.

“There should be a significant amount of money coming in the biennial budget for housing,” she said.

The Legislature plans to wrap up this session by June 27.

Jackson County’s two hotel conversions will provide emergency shelter to fire victims and homeless people.

Rogue Retreat, a Medford nonprofit that provides shelter and services for homeless people, is converting The Redwood Inn, at 722 N. Riverside Ave., into 47 suites with kitchens for $2.35 million.

In March, the Medford Urban Renewal Agency provided an additional $450,000 toward the project.

The first project to receive Project Turnkey funding was the Super 8 motel in Ashland. The $4.2 million paid for the purchase of the motel, at 2350 Ashland St. It will be run by Options for Helping Residents of Ashland, which provides caseworkers and other resources.

In November 2020, the Oregon Legislature Emergency Board appropriated $65 million to acquire “financially distressed” motels and offer shelters to deal with the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic and September 2020 wildfires.

Of that amount, $30 million was set aside for shelters in counties or tribal communities. To date, all the money was used up to fund seven projects for a total of 388 units in six counties.

Another $35 million was targeted for shelters in other parts of the state. To date, $31.2 million was spent.

Because there was more demand for the money from communities, the Legislature decided to add another $9.7 million to the pot to fund other projects.

“As we had hoped, local governments embraced the Project Turnkey opportunity, and applications for qualified projects have exceeded available funding for non-wildfire affected areas of the state,” Marsh said.

HB 2004 B passed the House 48-10, and now goes to the Senate.

Marsh said she hopes to have more information about additional emergency funding related to wildfires in the coming weeks.

Reach freelance writer Damian Mann at dmannnews@gmail.com.