MEDFORD, Ore. — Southern Oregon will be home to several more emergency shelters for displaced fire victims and the houseless in the coming months, with support from Oregon's "Project Turnkey."
In February, the group Options for Helping Residents of Ashland announced that it had been selected to be the first recipient of a Project Turnkey grant. That funding allowed them to acquire the Super 8 motel building at 2350 Ashland Street and begin converting it into a shelter.
Now the City of Medford and Rogue Retreat say that they have partnered on a similar initiative in Medford. With $2.55 million in Project Turnkey funding, the partners will transform the Redwood Inn on N Riverside Drive into emergency housing for the houseless and people displaced by the Almeda Fire.
“I’m thrilled that Rogue Retreat and the City of Medford are receiving funding for a Project Turnkey facility. This is a giant step in the community’s efforts to help individuals in crisis more toward stability and permanent housing,” said Representative Pam Marsh in a statement.
When the transition is complete, the new shelter is expected to provide 47 apartments with kitchenettes for families and individuals in desperate need of housing, with Rogue Retreat operating the facility.
The City of Medford said that it served as a co-applicant on the grant, providing technical support in developing Rogue Retreat's proposal. This included safety inspections of the property, helping with acquisition of the building, grant writing, creation of a financial plan, and advocacy for funding opportunities.
“A number of our staff have spent countless hours dedicated to getting this project to the finish line,” said Medford City Manager, Brian Sjothun. “Our City Council has prioritized housing and assistance for houseless individuals and this project is the perfect example of how we, as a City, can help facilitate collaborative partnerships and create solutions for our community.”
The Project Turnkey grant helped Rogue Retreat buy the site and the kitchenettes, but Medford officials say that more funding is needed to complete the remodel and sustain operations in the years ahead.
The City’s Medford Urban Renewal Board is scheduled to meet on March 11 to consider funding commitments for the renovation expenses of this project. The City Council is also set to consider the Community Services and Development Commission’s recommendation to allocate $420,427 in CARES Act funds to support operations on April 15.
ACCESS has also offered to provide financial support with the project's executive committee for a long-term operations plan. Meanwhile, the City has submitted an application to Providence for a $120,000 "recuperative care component" to the shelter.
But the new developments with Project Turnkey are not limited to Ashland and Medford. Klamath County was also selected to receive a $1.779 million grant to buy a 29-unit motel and 35-stall RV park along Highway 97 in Klamath Falls. “Project Homefront” will initially serve people vulnerable to coronavirus in need of quarantine, and those displaced by the Two Four Two Fire in September.
“Housing continues to be one of the largest barriers Klamath County faces in our effort to stimulate significant growth. This project brings us one step closer in accomplishing strategic investments that bring us closer to realizing those goals. I want to thank the Oregon Community Foundation for seeing the need and potential in Klamath County and the many individuals that worked tirelessly to make this come together,” said Klamath County Commissioner Derrick DeGroot.
In the long term, Project Homefront will support people released from incarceration, under the joint operation of Klamath County Community Corrections and Klamath County Public Health. The RV Park is expected to offer housing for veterans in the future.
According to the Oregon Community Foundation, the Klamath Falls facility could see use as early as this month. The organization gave a similar timeline for Medford's shelter.
The Oregon legislature set aside a total of $65 million for Project Turnkey for the express purpose of acquiring hotels to be operated as non-congregate shelters for the houseless and people at risk of becoming houseless. Of the total funds, $30 million was set aside for counties impacted by the 2020 wildfires. The rest was set aside for the remaining 28 counties in the state.