By Vickie Aldous
for the Mail Tribune
ASHLAND — The city would have to provide significantly more money or scale down offerings if it wants a social services provider to launch a homeless day center in town.
Those are the results of staff research into why no organizations stepped forward to apply for $100,000 in city grants spread over two years to start a center.
“They did not feel the city was offering enough money,” said City Administrator Dave Kanner.
The money was meant to cover facility costs, not staffing, equipment or materials.
In a request for proposals to run a center, the city had outlined various services organizations could offer. Not all were required, but some organizations may have thought they were, Kanner said.
City councilors were uncertain Monday whether they wanted to take another stab at attracting an organization, or even exactly what they wanted the day center to offer.
Some councilors wanted the center to focus narrowly on homeless people or those at risk of falling into homelessness, while others wanted the center to serve a broad spectrum of community members who are having trouble making ends meet.
Councilors agreed in a Monday study session to take the issue up at a future meeting after giving Kanner, Mayor John Stromberg and City Councilor Pam Marsh time to explore the issue further and report back to the full council.
Marsh is the manager of the Ashland Emergency Food Bank.
In response to questions about why they didn’t apply, organizations cited funding, services and staffing needs.
City grants would’ve provided $50,000 per year for two years. But Salvation Army Development Director Jackie Agee said running a center would cost a minimum of $150,000 annually and would take two full-time workers. She said the Salvation Army envisions a more modest center than the one outlined by the city.
Community Works also said the funding was insufficient. Volunteers from St. Vincent de Paul, who already are reaching out to help homeless people on the streets and those at risk of falling into homelessness, said they couldn’t take on the extra duties of running a homeless center.
The Maslow Project, which focuses on homeless youths, said meeting youths where they already are can be more cost-effective than paying for a center.
The new group Options for Homeless Residents of Ashland said it would be interested in running a center if the city would pay all the costs for the first year and then provide $50,000 for the second year. The organization said it could raise funds to help cover second-year costs.
The group recommended no food pantry, a locked room for belongings rather than lockers, and dropping a requirement that the operators offer job-skills training and occupational therapy. A second group could come in and offer those job programs, it said.
Other ideas from the city for center services include shower and laundry facilities, bathrooms, clothing, mental health counseling and referrals to transitional housing.
Homeless people also could use the address of the center to aid them in job hunting.
Vickie Aldous is a reporter for the Ashland Daily Tidings. She can be reached at 541-479-8199 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
This story originally appeared in Medford Mail Tribune.