Jackson County, Ore. — News 10 has partnered with local community action agency, ACCESS, in an effort to bring awareness to the growing issue of housing insecurity and to get the word out that there is help available.
Since 1976, ACCESS has been supporting the Jackson County community, serving one out of every four residents per year with their mission to provide food, warmth, and shelter to the area's most vulnerable.
A lot of people may have heard of ACCESS because of their food pantry and efforts to support those struggling with food insecurity, but may not know that they are also a huge housing service provider.
"It is vitally important to the ecosystem of Jackson County to be able to provide rental assistance to keep families in the houses that they currently have," said Support Services Director, Melanie Doshier. "We have less than a 1% vacancy rate in Jackson County and so to create stability for families in the units that they are residing in is very important to ACCESS because housing is a basic human right."
ACCESS owns affordable housing, provides rental assistance, and supports families through long-term case management to ensure that people have continued stability.
Kellie Battaglia, ACCESS Advancement Director, encourages anyone who is struggling to reach out even if you are unsure of your eligibility. She ensures that you will be met with open arms and without judgment.
"We hear that essentially 'the services that I got saved my family's life' or 'we would go hungry if it weren't for ACCESS' or 'we would have been homeless, living on the street, living in our car if it wasn't for the rental assistance' that we provided," Battaglia said. "There are a lot of families that you can't just pay their rent, they actually need more support than that. So, we're there to provide long-term case management to help them be successful."
Battaglia said that it takes a village to lift people up and provide for such a large number of community members. ACCESS is able to do this work through the support of individual and corporate donors, federal and state funds, and grants from private foundations.
ACCESS offers several different programs depending on each household's particular situation or income in order to more successfully meet the needs of as many families as possible.
If individuals or families are in a position where they are facing eviction or are currently unhoused, ACCESS provides support through their Oregon Eviction Diversion and Prevention Program (OR-DAP).
"We have administered over $15 million in rental assistance to stably house over 3,000 residents of Jackson County," Doshier said. 'The program has changed a significant amount of times with some slightly different eligibility pieces. The number one lesson that we've learned is that we must remain flexible throughout all of the change to ensure that Jackson County has what it needs."
Even though eligibility requirements are often fluid and changing, ACCESS professionals tell the community not to let that stop you from reaching out. Let access be the ones to determine eligibility.
"Reach out. Reach out to ACCESS, find out what services we can provide to help you. That's why we're here," Battaglia said. "So, you know, if someone is struggling, we do kind of a full assessment of someone's needs and then direct them and navigate them to the proper services. And if we don't provide the service, we can provide a referral to get them to where they need to be. We are here to, without judgment, support and help in any way we possibly can."
During the pandemic, several families were receiving COVID-related rental assistance, but access wants to remind the community that they no longer administer those funds and is putting a larger focus on their OR-DAP services.
"If we can stop or limit the trauma that families have to experience when they go 'okay I'm going through this eviction process,' then we do change the directory of the lives of their entire family. So, give us the opportunity to support you through that."
The ACCESS website is easy to navigate so that you can find the services that you need. Just go to accesshelps.org and click the services tab. The drop-down menu will provide you with options like rental assistance and affordable housing.
You can also call ACCESS at 541-779-6691 or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org. The lobby remains closed to in-person visits at this time.