Community leaders in Talent, Oregon gathered on Saturday for a ribbon cutting at the Gateway Project, a new site of temporary, affordable housing for wildfire survivors of the 2020 Almeda Fire.
Six travel trailers are currently on site. The rest are expected to arrive over the next month, with the goal of having all trailers filled with families by Christmas.
The newly developed site will house 53 travel trailers set up with utilities near downtown Talent. The project will prioritize housing for some of the 696 families of students in the Talent-Phoenix School District that school administrators estimate were displaced by the fire.
“We see the hope that comes when a clear-sighted, big-hearted community directs its leadership to prioritize bringing our families back home,” said Talent City Mayor Darby Ayers-Flood.
The board of the Urban Renewal Agency of Talent estimates that 30% of those families in the district who were displaced are not receiving support from FEMA, Ayers-Flood said.
The housing project stands apart from other wildfire recovery efforts for the level of local collaboration, fundraising and support from groups within the Rogue Valley. Groups such as the People’s Bank of Commerce Foundation, Rogue Action Center and Rogue Climate, and Medford United Church of Christ helped raise $2,273,000 for the project. In-kind and logistical support came from Talent Maker City, Rogue Retreat and other groups.
“Be clear, cities do not do this work traditionally,” said Rep. Pam Marsh, D-Ashland. “Normally we leave it to FEMA to step in and develop trailers and support people.”
Additional financial support came from statewide entities such as the Oregon Community Foundation and Oregon Housing and Community Services. During the event, Mary Ferrell, a councilmember with the Oregon Housing Stability Council which governs OHCS, announced an additional $422 million will be awarded to Oregon from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development for wildfire recovery and rebuilding.
Infrastructure installed at the Gateway Project such as utility lines, water, sewer and sidewalks will pave the way for a future mixed-use affordable housing development on the site in the years ahead.