The Ashland Community Resource Center (ACRC) will mark its fourth year of operations with a celebration on Friday, Feb. 16 for donors, partners, supporters and city officials.

The center opened Feb. 11, 2014, thanks to a two-year $100,000 grant from the city of Ashland to Options for Homeless Residents of Ashland (OHRA) in partnership with ACCESS of Jackson County. Since then, the center has served 2,400 individuals in need, including assisting in 73 finding employment and 136 finding housing.

It has also helped 320 people stay in housing by locating or providing funds for utility, rent and mortgage payments. In the case of housing, ACRC was not the source of all the necessary funds, but reached out to partner agencies to find money to acquire and protect housing.

“We focus on helping people move from crisis to stability. Part of this is helping with basics needed for moving forward — things like personal identification documention (such as driver’s licenses), internet and telephone access, and opportunities for improved personal hygiene,” said Leigh Madsen, executive director of the center. “Over the years, with the encouragement of the community, we have tightened our focus, moving away from meals and clothing, which we initially offered, to emphasizing jobs and housing that are the building blocks for sustainable lives. Part of this shift was made possible by additional grants from the city of Ashland, the Leightman Maxey Foundation and Lithia Springs Rotary, which together with individual donations fund, our Job Match program.”

In 2016, the program helped 30 people find temporary jobs and 20 people find permanent employment. In 2017, it resulted in 34 people finding temporary jobs and 44 people finding permanent employment.

The greatest service of the center may be hard to quantify, Madsen continued. “There are myriad state and federal housing programs, social service and nonprofit agencies for helping people dealing with age, disability, post-traumatic stress syndrome, abuse by parents or spouse or other life upsets. Navigating this maze is difficult for those outside the social service world — let alone someone facing the reality or threat of imminent homelessness. This navigating is a huge part of our job. Another huge part is working with our partners such as St. Vincent de Paul, Jackson County Fuel Committee, and the faith community to identify and pool funds to help people overcome obstacles such as unpaid utility bills in an existing home or the deposit and first and last month rent of a new home.

“We like to say that our resource center is one-stop for social services,” said Madsen. “It doesn’t mean ACRC has all the answers, but we can put someone in touch with the agency that addresses a specific issue, be it La Clinica, Jackson County Mental Health, St. Vincent de Paul or the Veterans Administration to name a few.”

ACRC is operated by OHRA, an Oregon nonprofit organization, which has more than 307 donors, most of whom reside in Ashland. ACRC is located at 611 Siskiyou, Blvd.