Statement from April 2020:
Following on the Cityís ongoing commitment to our unhoused population and the partner organizations who work tirelessly to support them, the Cityís government has continued our support and care for vulnerable individuals during the coronavirus outbreak. Hereís a collection of our previously advertised actions to date, many of which are ongoing through the crisis.
Placement of hygiene stations
As soon as it was apparent that normal facilities and maintenance staff would be impacted, the City ordered 24 portable bathroom and 18 hand wash stations placed throughout the community. They will stay until the threat has diminished and safe maintenance can resume. Click here for a map of the stations around town.
When the winter shelter (One Site) closed early to protect guests from virus concerns, the City immediately stepped up and assisted our local service provider in paying for rented hotel rooms for the most vulnerable through the end of March, when the normal shelter season would have ended.
Since that time, the City, OHRA and many dedicated community members have been searching for additional hotel room funding and available rooms. Through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, both FEMA and CDBG funds are now available for hotel room rental. While previously capped City of Ashland CDBG awarded funds were used in March when the shelter closed, the CARES Act enabled the Cityís ability to increase available funding to an anticipated $81,000 for hotel rooms in April by removing the cap on spending.
The expanded opportunity is resulting in an additional 30 hotel rooms available as of today, for a total of 41 rooms. As of April 17, OHRA reported 31 rooms occupied, a number already increasing daily. Read the full press release here.
The City Administrator has participated regularly in talks with local service providers and elected officials. A recurring request is for the City to open facilities or allow camping on City-owned property. To heed the direction of the Jackson County medical director and the intent of the Governorís Executive Order, the City will not create opportunities for people to congregate, facilitating virus transmission. This is frustrating to some but would violate County, State, and Federal medical advice and our responsibility to protect citizens during this public health crisis.
There is expanded car camping at various locations throughout Ashland on an ongoing basis. In response to the coronavirus pandemic, the City has authorized three additional free vehicle camping locations in the City. Each location has trash, hygiene stations, and basic monitoring by City staff as there currently isnít service provider capacity. Options for Housing Residents of Ashland (OHRA) is administering the program from the Ashland Community Resource Center.
The City has explored various options to aid in food availability and distribution in ways that do not contribute to congregation and virus spread. The City has contributed $8,983 to OHRA for food delivery to eight locations, including along the Bear Creek Greenway, once a day. The City is also entering into an agreement with Uncle Foodís Diner for the provision of meals four days a week. These agreements and funding decisions help ensure that meals are currently provided seven days a week by various homeless service providers.
Fire Prevention Services
Recognizing the ongoing safety issues with dispersed camping and many unhoused people would be camping after the shelter closed, Ashland Fire & Rescue staff visited the winter shelter during the last week of operation to educate and remind shelter guests about campfire safety. There will be follow up at meals and through outreach materials as fire season approaches.