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Ashland Hotel Marks First Step In Statewide Shelter Project

OHRA Director of Administration Pam Lott rolls up a banner covering the former Super 8 hotel in Ashland. It will be the new home of a OHRA shelter starting in February.
Erik Neumann
OHRA Director of Administration Pam Lott rolls up a banner covering the former Super 8 hotel in Ashland. It will be the new home of a OHRA shelter starting in February.

In just over a month, Ashland will have a new 50-person shelter for people who are experiencing homelessness, have been displaced by wildfire, or are struggling with the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic. It will come in the form of a move-in-ready Super 8 hotel.

On a brisk Thursday morning, homeless advocates from Options for Helping Residents of Ashland (OHRA), state lawmakers and staff from the philanthropy Oregon Community Foundation gathered outside the local Super 8 to announce its purchase with $4.2 million in state funds. It’s the first hotel purchased in Oregon as part of Project Turnkey, a statewide effort to provide shelter for those struggling through a trifecta of hardships.

“There are so many who will be helped by this project,” says OHRA President Diane de Ryss. “Those who were left homeless by the fire and by other circumstances in their lives, those who are housed but are struggling because of the economic fallout of COVID, and those who are simply coping with the long-term effects of poverty.”

Funds for the project came from $65 million allocated from the state emergency fund to purchase distressed hotels around the state. In Ashland, grant money was awarded to OHRA through the Oregon Community Foundation. Ownership of the hotel will be transferred to OHRA in mid-February. They plan to start offering services in 20 rooms in mid-March, and becoming fully operational by summertime.

“Our shelter here will be providing services, case management, navigation,” says Michelle Arellano, executive director of OHRA. “We will also be working with our community partners to work with each of our guests with wraparound services to have greater impact, to help them move from crisis to stability.”

OHRA staff help people navigate support services including food stamps, health insurance and Section 8 housing in an effort to become fully independent.

Arellano says the first and most vulnerable group of people to get services will most likely be individuals who are experiencing homelessness who have underlying health conditions.

Residence is intended to last 3-6 months, with the ultimate goal of finding permanent housing. Staff said OHRA permanently housed 28 people during the last shelter season, and helped house 14 more during the pandemic.

Ashland Representative Pam Marsh helped allocate funds for Project Turnkey in the state legislature.

“We have the ability to really walk individuals who are now camping in their cars or sleeping in tents, on sidewalks, from homelessness through all of the transition needed to become permanent residents of the community,” Marsh says.

Erik Neumann is JPR's news director. He earned a master's degree from the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism and joined JPR as a reporter in 2019 after working at NPR member station KUER in Salt Lake City.