An established social services organization and a new grassroots group have stepped forward to offer proposals for running a help center to aid homeless people and others in need in Ashland.

An established social services organization and a new grassroots group have stepped forward to offer proposals for running a help center to aid homeless people and others in need in Ashland.

The city of Ashland sought the proposals for a help center, with applications due last week.

ACCESS — a Medford-based organization established in 1976 that partners with a host of other groups to help homeless and low income people — submitted a detailed proposal, as did Options for Homeless Residents of Ashland, which formed in June 2012.

The Ashland City Council will review the pair of proposals during a study session on June 17.

The council could make a decision on whether to accept a proposal during its regular meeting on June 18, said City Administrator Dave Kanner.

In late 2012, when the city first put out a request for help center proposals, no social service groups submitted plans, despite the city's offer of $100,000 spread over two years.

At that time, groups cited the high cost of running a center and a lack of flexibility on the city's part in how to use the money. The funding was to be used only for building costs.

This spring, the city again sought proposals, but offered groups flexibility on how to best use the funding.

City Councilors also said services would not have to be offered from a single, fixed location.

ACCESS would prioritize helping homeless people get housed and has a number of programs and partnerships to accomplish that. Its goal would be to house 10 households in the first year, according to the group's proposal.

ACCESS is proposing to offer basic services to homeless residents with its Mobile HELP Connection vehicle, which has a built-in generator.

Blankets, bus passes, gas cards, food, mail and other items could be distributed, and the vehicle is also capable of charging cell phones and computers.

Laundry facilities and showers would not be available, but ACCESS could distribute tokens to a laundromat business.

Providing showers would be more challenging. ACCESS could use donated space, or buy a mobile shower unit that could be towed behind a truck.

The services ACCESS envisions providing would cost an estimated $143,577 for one year. The organization would view the services as a one-year experiment, with plans for a second year contingent on meeting baseline goals, according to its application.

Some services could be cut out to save money. The cost for a mobile shower unit, for example, would be $39,400.

In a cover letter for the application, ACCESS Executive Director Jackie Schad said Ashland faces challenging issues and ACCESS does not believe that it has all the solutions.

"We do have a commitment to serving low-income residents, a strong record of collaborative partnerships and a willingness to experiment with new solutions," Schad said in the letter.

For its part, Options for Homeless Residents of Ashland, also known as OHRA, stuck with the idea of providing services out of a fixed space rather than through a mobile vehicle. The group would like to find space in a building zoned for commercial space, according to its application.

OHRA envisions providing showers, mail service, telephone and Internet access, laundry services, storage space, food, blankets, hygiene supplies and outdoor supplies.

Like ACCESS, OHRA would also refer homeless people and others in need to existing groups and agencies that provide various services and aid.

Running the help center would cost $55,660 in the first year, according to OHRA.

That would cover a part-time paid center manager, rent, utilities, an on-demand hot water heater, shower construction, insurance, equipment and supplies, according to OHRA's application.

OHRA's board is made up of local professionals and others with track records of volunteerism in social services.

OHRA submitted letters of support for its help center proposal from local churches, Peace House, Rogue Valley Council of Governments Senior and Disability Services, the Jackson County Housing Authority, Oregon Department of Human Services Self Sufficiency Services, Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Southern Oregon and many other organizations and individuals.

OHRA has worked with local faith groups and the city to provide rotating overnight shelter for homeless people in churches and a city building.

Staff reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-479-8199 or