Ashland Shelter Bars Children

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ASHLAND, Ore. — Some residents of Ashland are criticizing city government for not allowing children into the city’s only publicly-owned shelter.

The city started using Pioneer Hall as a homeless shelter last January. Right now, it’s open two nights a week. But they say the problem is that it just isn’t a safe environment for children.

Ashland Mayor John Stromberg says they decided to open the building as a homeless shelter in response to declining federal funding for shelters. The mayor says the only way they could safely allow kids inside is to background check those who come through the door.

Experts with ACCESS say there are 1,500 to 2,000 homeless kids in Jackson County, and not enough places for all of them. They say many shelters either use background checks are limit minors because of the risk for liability.

“In the abundance of caution to protect people from possible harm, we can often end up inflicting unintended harm,” said ACCESS Executive Director Jackie Schad.

Mayor Stromberg says in the long-term the city is looking to fill that gap by providing funding for a new help center for low-income and homeless residents.

ACCESS and Options for Homeless Residents of Ashland were given a $100,000 two-year grant from the city. That help center is expected to open in the end of January.

In the meantime, city officials say they won’t kick a child or family to the curb if they show up. They say they’ll help provide rides or police escorts to other shelters, or even consider putting families up in motel rooms if they have to.