ASHLAND, Ore. — An Ashland-based organization will receive a $4.2 million grant from the state in order to buy and convert a local motel into a shelter facility, part of Oregon's newly-funded "Project Turnkey."
The Oregon Community Foundation announced on Thursday that Options for Helping Residents of Ashland (OHRA) had been selected to be the first recipient of a Project Turnkey grant. The funds are meant to be used to create a resource center and shelter facility for people in the community "negatively impacted by wildfires and the COVID-19 pandemic."
OHRA plans to convert the Super 8 motel building at 2350 Ashland Street into a shelter, with hopes of having the center open at a limited capacity in March for the most vulnerable members of the community.
At the outset, the new building will offer 20 separated living areas that can accommodate as many as 30 people, but will eventually expand to 50 available rooms for up to 70 people.
The current OHRA shelter accommodates a maximum of 44 people, all in a common room. With COVID-19 still a major concern, proponents of the project consider separated living quarters a much safer alternative.
“There is a huge need for the new OHRA Center, given the triple impact of wildfires, economic impact from Covid-19 and the shortage of affordable housing in the great Ashland area,” said Michelle Arellano, executive director of OHRA. “We’re ecstatic to be able to meet this demand and make a difference in our broader community.”
According to the state, the number of people seeking services each day from OHRA tripled over the last year. Arellano said that the new OHRA center will offer greater capacity for staff to help people transition from crisis to stability and services for residents to seek jobs.
The Oregon Legislature's Emergency Board set aside $65 million in state funds in November of 2020 so that local organizations throughout the state could purchase financially distressed motels and convert them into safe shelters, with the potential of developing them into long-term housing.
“The opportunity to acquire a Project Turnkey facility is a game changer for our work with homeless individuals and families, including those displaced by the September 2020 wildfire,” said state Representative Pam Marsh. “For far too long our shelter providers have had to scramble to find a place for people to come in from the cold. Now we have a permanent location in the community that will serve as a base to help individuals regain their footing. I am thrilled — and deeply grateful.”