The Ashland City Council is fast-tracking its process for considering whether to open a city building one night per week to provide shelter this winter.
After hearing from faith community leaders who said volunteers are eager to help staff the shelter, councilors voted to hold a special meeting in early January to consider the idea, though a date has not yet been set.
"The need is there. The need is immediate," said Councilor Dennis Slattery.
Councilors decided against approving the proposal outright because city staffers need time to investigate issues such as liability, costs and potential scheduling conflicts with groups using city buildings for events.
Ashland has no permanent overnight shelter for the homeless, but the First Presbyterian Church of Ashland and the Trinity Episcopal Church host shelters on Monday and Wednesday nights, respectively.
Rogue Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship and Temple Emek Shalom have offered to provide trained volunteers to staff a city building for overnight shelter one night per week.
The city buildings that could be used are The Grove on East Main Street or Pioneer Hall or the Community Center on Winburn Way across from Lithia Park.
The Ashland Parks and Recreation Department often uses those buildings for recreational classes and rents them out for events.
The city does have a policy that allows it to open a building for shelter when temperatures drop to 20 degrees or below, but that provision is rarely used.
On Monday, a majority of councilors rejected a proposal to change the threshold to 33 degrees or less, saying that would dramatically increase the number of shelter nights and create a de facto winter shelter.
Staff reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-479-8199 or firstname.lastname@example.org.