SOU dorms being considered for temporary fire victim housing

ASHLAND, Or.- Agencies across the Rogue Valley are working hard to house people displaced by the recent fires. One potential option federal officials looked at earlier this week is right on Southern Oregon University’s campus.

The Cascade complex has been practically abandoned in the corner of SOU’s Ashland campus. Now the vacant student dorms are being considered as new temporary housing for fire victims.

“We’re really concerned about trying to get people into that interim housing so they remain here, they remain employed here, and they remain part of the fabric of our community,” said Kelly Madding, Medford’s Deputy City Manager.

Madding says housing is the most pressing concern in fire recovery. Earlier this week, the Army Corp of engineers came to town to look at a variety of locations for temporary housing.

The group, which works closely with FEMA, would remodel sites to make them habitable and help relocate people there. Many people are currently staying with friends, families, or in hotels.

“That is not going to be able to last forever. We recognize that is probably a short term, a very short term, living arrangement,” Madding said.

When considering locations in the Rogue Valley, SOU’s Cascade complex came up right away.

The residence halls in the complex have been vacant for years. The university uses some parts of the lower floors for displaced departments during campus construction, but no one has lived there for nearly a decade.

The Corp would have to make several large-scale changes to the dorms to make them livable for the families and individuals who would need them.

“Because as you can imagine, these rooms are small, they don’t have kitchens, they have common bathrooms,” Madding explained.

“What we are looking at with the Army Corp. and FEMA is to have those agencies quickly bring these facilities up to standards where they are livable,” said Joe Mosley with Southern Oregon University.

According to Mosely, the university is more than willing to work with FEMA and the Army Corp. They are simply waiting for a decision.

“The timeline for this is in FEMA’s court at this point. We’ve had multiple meetings with them and we are just waiting for an answer,” said Mosley.

According to Madding, the pressure to house nearly 2 thousand fire victims is being felt on every official level.

“We are all sensitive to the fact that people need this interim housing and we feel that pressure on ourselves from our citizens and their well being and wanting to provide for that,” Madding explained.

Madding says FEMA typically provides housing for 18 months after the declaration of a disaster.

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