ashland.news
July 24, 2024

Dine-out demonstration planned Monday on Ashland Plaza

Pioneer Hall served meals for the unhoused and hungry for eight years, but the city has said it is too hazardous for that now. Southern Oregon Jobs with Justice argues that it can address the city's concerns and safely serve meals. Ashland.news photo by Bert Etling
December 10, 2023

Some must eat outdoors, organizers say, so why not join them for a meal

By Bert Etling, Ashland.news

Frustrated at having to host free community meals outdoors instead of inside Pioneer Hall as in past years, organizers of the free meals are inviting others unhappy that those who need the free food have no alternative but to eat outdoors in the cold to join in a demonstration of solidarity by dining together outside Monday afternoon, Dec. 11.

The al fresco demonstration is set for 4 p.m. on the sidewalk along East Main Street by Ashland Plaza, Southern Oregon Jobs with Justice announced in a news release.

“Bring your own dinner, and we’ll stand outside and eat together in the cold weather, just like our hungry neighbors do,” says the release sent by Jason Houk of SOJWJ.

“For the past eight years the city of Ashland has worked with the community peace meal to help ensure that our most vulnerable neighbors were invited inside Pioneer Hall to share meals together, especially during the coldest months of the year,” says the release. “Today, Pioneer Hall sits empty. Our community meals are held outside, regardless of temperature, and we’re hearing from some folks that they are no longer able to come to dinner. It’s too cold for disabled and elderly people to stand in the cold and eat a meal, so many are going hungry. We can do better.”

Pioneer Hall has been variously closed and open for public use since an engineering report in 2017 identified numerous structural issues with the buildings.

The city’s insurer, CIS Oregon, is “not in favor of using Pioneer Hall at all at this time given the known structural deficits,” according to a November email sent by Deputy City Manager Sabrina Cotta, which went on to add that the underwriter would be amenable to such use if those using the hall had a certificate of insurance naming the city as an additional insured and with a waiver of liability, it would be OK to use.

In October, the city said it expects to put out to bid repairs to both Pioneer Hall and the adjacent Community Center in February, with construction to begin in April or May.

The weather forecast calls for mostly sunny skies Monday with a high of 51 and low of 35.

Email Ashland.news Executive Editor Bert Etling at betling@ashland.news or call or text him at 541-631-1313.

Picture of Bert Etling

Bert Etling

Bert Etling is the executive editor of Ashland.news. Email him at betling@ashland.news.

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