July 23, 2024

Jackson County entities on course to meet grant goals addressing homelessness

Ashland Mayor Tonya Graham speaks in September 2023 outside a property at 2200 Ashland St. that the city acquired for homeless shelter services. Rogue Valley Times photo by Jamie Lusch
September 22, 2023

County’s $8.8M must be spent on shelter and outreach to the unhoused by Jan. 10

By Erick Bengel, Rogue Valley Times

The millions in state grants distributed to Jackson County service providers this year to confront homelessness have so far helped save 153 households from eviction, rehoused 31 and added 13 shelter beds, according to ACCESS, the county’s community action agency.

ACCESS released the figures — current as of the morning of Sept. 13 — in a report on the progress made since May toward carrying out Gov. Tina Kotek’s executive order declaring homelessness in Oregon an emergency.

The county’s Continuum of Care (Coc) — a group of local agencies that address housing and homelessness — received $8.8 million through the Oregon Housing and Community Services Department to achieve some ambitious goals: rapidly rehouse 133 households, set up 67 new shelter beds and build trust with unhoused and at-risk community members through street-level outreach.

The money is a slice of $79.2 million given to CoCs in seven “emergency areas” throughout Oregon where homelessness has risen at least 50% since 2017. In Jackson County, homelessness has shot up more than 130% in that time.

The county’s CoC also received $1.5 million through the Oregon Eviction Diversion and Prevention Program for wraparound support, rental assistance and legal services to help prevent 385 low-income households from becoming homeless.

ACCESS is the CoC’s lead agency and fiscal sponsor of the grant funds.

The money must be spent by Jan. 10, 2024, one year to the day that Kotek declared an emergency with Executive Order 23-02. The order marked the first of three the governor issued to tackle Oregon’s growing homelessness crisis.

Melanie Doshier, ACCESS’s support services director, said she has full confidence that the county’s goals will be met by the deadline.

“Rolling out any new programs under quick timelines always (presents) challenges,” she said, “but we have been able to successfully engage with individuals and get them into housing.”

Other agencies that received funding to take on one or more pieces of the problem include OHRA (Options for Helping Residents of Ashland), Community Works, Rogue Retreat, the cities of Medford and Ashland, the Salvation Army, The Arc Jackson County, and Resolve Center for Dispute Resolution and Restorative Justice.

Last week, the city of Ashland took possession of a property at 2200 Ashland St. to set up 30 to 40 shelter beds for the remainder of Kotek’s emergency period. The city also plans to use the site to shelter people who live outdoors against severe weather and wildfire smoke.

Ashland Mayor Tonya Graham said in an interview, “We don’t know entirely what the configuration will look like after Jan. 10, but our intention is to be able to put at least the severe weather shelter there, and potentially carry on some other sheltering activities after Jan. 11.”

Much will depend on how much funding is available once the emergency ends.

Area residents, who said they were blindsided by the city’s decision to place a homeless shelter there, voiced their concerns at a meeting Sept. 14 with Ashland City Council and city staff in the basement of Southern Oregon University’s student union, reported.

“The feedback that we’ve received from the neighbors is going to be a critical part of figuring out that long-term vision for this property,” Graham told the Rogue Valley Times.

Doshier said that, though the timeline is tight, the grants are making a big difference. She hopes funding continues at similar levels after the emergency order ends.

“The impact that we can have on individuals — and the ability to engage when individuals are ready to engage with services — has been really wonderful,” she said.

ACCESS received a handwritten note from a woman who was rehoused into a Medford residence. She said that having a refrigerator helped her get some of her self-worth back, Doshier said. She could purchase food not just for the moment but for the future, the note said.

Reach reporter Erick Bengel at or 458-488-2031. This story first appeared in the Rogue Valley Times.

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Bert Etling

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