Jackson County, OR — A unique new initiative that hopes to help alleviate the growing homeless crisis both in the Rogue Valley and throughout Oregon broke ground in Ashland on Thursday.
Project Turnkey is a $65 million statewide plan to convert hotels and motels into housing for the homeless and those impacted by wildfires or the pandemic. The first converted building will be a now-former Super 8 on Ashland Street, thanks to a $4.2 million grant through the program. The facility will be able to accommodate up to fifty different units once fully operational.
"I think that we are making an investment that turns the corner. I think it's a game-changer in our ability to significantly address the issue of homelessness," said Rep. Pam Marsh (D-Ashland), who has been pushing for the project since early last year. "We have a ton of work ahead of us. Both to restore what has been lost and to fill in what was missing to begin with. This is an entry point."
Individuals determined to be in greatest need, including those with disabilities, veterans, and people who are currently unhoused and unemployed will be given priority assistance.
People who are admitted to the facility will be able to stay anywhere from three to six months as they work with a case manager to find a more permanent housing solution. The statewide project is overseen by the Oregon Community Foundation, which administers funds through an application and selection process.
"Project Turnkey is not a cookie-cutter project. Each property under consideration is unique to its community and the needs of its community," said Amy Cuddy, spokesperson for the OCF.
The Ashland site will serve as the main office for Options for Helping Residents of Ashland (OHRA), a social service provider that works to alleviate poverty in the city. OHRA will run the facility, which fits with Project Turnkey's overall plan to be operated at the local level by communities with a better sense of what will work for them, rather than dictated by the state from the top down.
"When we put a roof over somebody's head we do start to see a decrease in mental health disorders and an increase in physical health. these are things that allow people to work along a continuum and move from crisis to stability," said Cass Sinclair, senior director of the OHRA.
The plan is for limited use to open up by March at the facility as remodeling work gradually allows the OHRA to take over before slowly expanding.