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Jackson County Eligible For Funds To Turn Motels Into Shelters

A teal motel
Pedro Gonzalez via unsplash

It may be an unusual plan, but it’s not unheard of: California has so far dedicated $500 million dollars to help purchase hotels and turn them into shelters during the pandemic.

Oregon lawmakers have approved a similar initiative amounting to $30 million. Project TurnKey will only help counties impacted by wildfires, including Jackson County — which was already struggling with a housing crisis before the Almeda Fire destroyed 2,400 hundred homes.

Oregon Rep. Pam Marsh, D-Ashland, has been spearheading this project since July. The initial proposal came with a $65 million price tag, and it was split in two: part would go to wildfire-impacted communities, and $35 million would go to other parts of the state. The Joint Legislative Emergency Board didn’t approve the second half, but Marsh says it’ll likely reappear during the short legislative session.

“We're going to continue to develop the project because we strongly believe that communities are ready to step up and act on homelessness,” Marsh says. “And the state has a responsibility to help them understand best practices and to provide resources.”

For now, nonprofits or government agencies serving Jackson, Lane, Clackamas, Lincoln, and Marion counties will soon be able to apply for funds from the Oregon Community Foundation. Those funds can be used to purchase hotels or motels, which have been struggling financially in recent months as a result of the pandemic.

Motels purchased with these funds could only be used as housing — whether temporary or permanent — otherwise, they have to be sold, with proceeds going back to the state.

Marsh says the goal is to have organizations also provide services like crisis counseling and other support. They’ll need to have previous experience in operating shelters, and they’ll need to come to the application process with an operational plan. Applications should be reviewed and selected by December 15, “with the hope that occupancy can be negotiated before the close of the transaction, in preparation for winter shelter needs,” reads the proposal documents.

April Ehrlich is an editor and reporter at Oregon Public Broadcasting. Previously, she was a news host and reporter at Jefferson Public Radio.