$4.2 million grant awarded to buy motel for displaced southern Oregonians

ASHLAND, Ore. — Thursday morning, the Oregon Community Foundation announced millions of dollars to help displaced southern Oregonians. It announced ‘Options for Helping Residents of Ashland’ or OHRA will receive the first ‘Project Turnkey’ grant.

“We’re out here and it’s very cold. I think that causes all of us to reflect on what life is really like when you don’t have a home, when you’re living in your car or on the street,” said State Representative Pam Marsh on the 29 degree morning.

OHRA plans to transform an Ashland motel with the $4.2 million of state funding.

“The state funds will be used to purchase and transform the motel behind us into the new OHRA center,” said Amy Cuddy with the Oregon Community Foundation. “A resource center and facility to safely shelter the most vulnerable members of our community.”

The Ashland location will be used to help people impacted by the fires near Labor Day and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Around 3,000 buildings burned in the Almeda fire alone. The purchase includes the motel and everything inside.

“The shelter is move-in ready which is really incredible. So we’ll just be putting our systems and employees and processes and all of that in place for the first 30 days, and then we’ll open the doors,” said Michelle Arellano, the executive director of OHRA.

OHRA says it will start with about 20 rooms in March and increase from there. “We have 68 rooms and then we’ll be creating offices. Then we’re installing an ADA elevator, so that will be taking out a couple of the rooms. So we’re looking at about 50 people,” said Arellano.

The state of Oregon approved $65 million to purchase motels throughout the state. “This gives us a chance to provide people with the support they need to get back onto their feet. I think that’s an incredible contribution to the community,” said Rep. Marsh.

The Oregon Community Foundation said in the long term, the facilities can be converted to transitional or permanent supportive housing units. OHRA said limited use will begin in March 2021. That’s when it plans to open up a block of rooms to the most vulnerable community members.

It plans to hire 10 to 15 employees to help manage the property and it plans to interview the current Super 8 employees first for that opportunity.

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