Ashland’s Emergency Shelter May Lower Temperature Threshold

ASHLAND, Ore. — Temperatures in Oregon are dropping as homeless shelters are coming under increasing pressure, leading the Ashland City Council to consider whether to lower the temperature threshold for opening its emergency shelter. The proposal is already seen as inhumane in some quarters.

The property at 2200 Ashland Street was acquired with State funding under the terms of the Governor’s declared state of emergency due to homelessness. Seeking to address the rise in unsheltered homelessness in Metropolitan areas in Oregon since 2017, the funding, Ashland is working to provide immediate shelter beds for unhoused community members. With funding, Ashland will provide 30-40 emergency shelter beds, while the City of Medford’s funding will see 75 emergency shelter beds.

As it is an emergency measure, state funding requires that the shelters must operate until January 10, 2024. Additional operational funding will be available for these shelters after January 11 according to the Governor’s office, but the City will collaborate with the surrounding neighborhood to ensure that the program works well.

Ashland City Council proposes to reduce the threshold for opening the emergency shelter by dropping the requirement from 32 degrees to 25 degrees. Medford currently has the same threshold in place- unless there’s rain or snow, but some residents feel that even the 32-degree threshold is too low.  Jason Houk of Southern Oregon’s Jobs with Justice is discouraged and worried about the direction the city seems to be going.

You can check out the Ashland weather forecast here.

Believing it will only make life more difficult for homeless people in Ashland, Rich Rohde voiced the opinion of many residents when he spoke out against the idea at the last council meeting on December 19th. He said, “It’s clear and you have testimony that below 32 degrees, it really dramatically affects the health, especially the people that are the most vulnerable.”

Others who spoke included Helen Turner from the OHSU Street Nursing Team, who proposes that the temperature threshold should be higher than 32 degrees. Having seen people already lose their fingers and toes- or even die from medical complications, she is concerned about health complications caused by the cold weather. She said that 32 degrees is inhumane, as hypothermia can set in even at 50 degrees if people are cold, if it’s windy, and especially if it’s windy when they are wet.

The city council is likely to discuss the reduction of the temperature threshold early in the year because they ran out of time to discuss the proposal at the last meeting. In the interim, NPOs and other initiatives- like Southern Oregon Jobs with Justice, want the city council members to experience the harsh conditions for themselves, so that they can better understand the problems experienced by people who need shelter.

Jason Houk wants to bring people who don’t have an opportunity to go indoors into the shelter and sees the need to dedicate space for community meals. His organization has been gathering in the plaza on Mondays at 4 p.m. and they plan to be there next Monday. They hope to encourage people to stand in solidarity by joining them. Houk also encourages all residents to not just participate in the demonstrations at the Ashland Plaza, but also to attend city council meetings as well.

The shelter will only be an indoor shelter and does not include tent camping on the site. The next meeting of the Ashland City Council  is not yet scheduled on their website, but more information can be obtained about the Ashland Emergency Homeless Shelter at 2200 Ashland St here:



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