MEDFORD, Ore. — “This is not a happy day to ask some people to leave, but what it allows us to do is really focus our resources on those folks who have a destroyed home,” said Dale Kunce, regional chief executive officer for the Red Cross.
2,000 fire victims are being housed in Red Cross supported hotels across Oregon.
Now, hundreds of people are being asked to move out in a process the Red Cross calls ‘shelter residence transition.’
“As we exit the emergency phase of an operation, level three evacuations go away, air quality returns back to normal, you’re able to return home. We’re encouraging you to return home,” said Kunce.
Kunce says people who met one of four conditions were given notice to move out last Wednesday:
If they have no visible damage to their home.
There is damage to the home but it is considered still livable.
The person failed to get in touch to verify their pre-disaster address and their continued need for housing or they were homeless before the disaster and they need to verify they were directly affected by the fires.
“If you got a letter that said your last day is today and your home has been destroyed, come and talk with us,” said Kunce. “Call the phone number on the piece of paper that you got. We’ll work with you. We want you to stay with us.”
Before the Almeda Fire, Rogue Retreat’s Development Director Matthew Vorderstrasse says Jackson County had a 1 percent availability of rentals on the market.
After losing over 2,000 homes, he says the fire’s exacerbated the current housing crisis.
“Because of a lot of the vegetation that was destroyed, a lot of the homeless that were sheltering in certain areas are no longer able to do that anymore. So, it’s also displaced a lot of our current homeless population as well,” said Vorderstrasse.
Vorderstrasse says it’s possible some of the homeless people being asked to leave the hotels were not directly impacted by fires.
Still, he’s concerned they don’t have a place to go as temperatures drop.
“We need more [resources]. And that’s why we’re really encouraging organizations that can to inquire with the city about becoming an event weather shelter because it will help increase as much bandwidth as possible to keep people off the streets,” he said.
As for the Red Cross, its focus is on fire victims.
“In the early days… we don’t ask for ID, we don’t ask for your address if you come to us and say I need help with a place to stay and meal. We provide that,” Kunce said.
NBC5 News asked the Red Cross for the number of people leaving hotels in Jackson County.
They say the number is fluid for the next few days.
The county says people who moved from local hotels are being given an email address and phone number to be connected to resources.
But when it comes to housing, the county says there’s no guarantee there will be a place for them to go.
Amanda Rose is a multimedia journalist for NBC5 News. Amanda graduated from Columbia University earning a Master’s degree in Journalism. She also received a Bachelor’s degree in English with a specialization in literature from the University of British Columbia.
She’s a Los Angeles native, but is thrilled to return to the beautiful Pacific Northwest and is passionate about reporting on the criminal justice system.