April Change for Good Partner: Options for Helping Residents of Ashland

 

April's Change for Good Partner is

 

Change for Good Options for Helping Residents of Ashland

 

local nonprofit Options for Helping Residents of Ashland

By helping people move from crisis to stability, OHRA builds more capable individuals, stronger families, and a better community.

OHRA is the only permanent resource in Ashland offering comprehensive services for unhoused and economically challenged people.

Change for Good Options for Helping Residents of Ashland

OHRA has three main programs: the Resource Center, the Shelter, and the Laundry/Shower Trailer.  


Through the Resource Center, OHRA helps people find a place to live or remain in their homes, avoid eviction, obtain jobs, and access all kinds of essential services. They also serve as the only primary mail home in Ashland for people who are unhoused. The new OHRA Shelter in the former Super-8 motel has room for up to 70 people, once renovations are complete, to find respite in private rooms as they work to stabilize their lives. Since April 2021, while construction is underway, they have operated at partial capacity and sheltered 163 people. The Laundry/Shower Trailer is the only place in Ashland where unhoused people can access basic hygiene services.
 
OHRA stayed open continuously during the pandemic and, after evacuating on September 8, reopened the next day to serve people devastated by the Almeda Fire. When people have nowhere else to turn to, OHRA is there as a lifeline for the people in our community who need us most.

While there certainly is a focus on their unhoused guests, they are also the only resource in town who helps people who are on the verge of homelessness stay housed and avoid eviction. OHRA has the only walk in resource center in Jackson County.


We pride ourselves on having a diverse staff, board of directors, and advisory council. At every level of OHRA leadership people of color, LGBTQ+, indigenous people, and people with lived experience of poverty and homelessness are represented. We are also proud to be part of a network of community partners serving our area seeking to improve the lives of those we serve. 

Change for Good Options for Helping Residents of Ashland

The OHRA Center Renovation

In 2021, OHRA (Options for Helping Residents of Ashland) received the first Project Turnkey grant from the State of Oregon and Oregon Community Foundation for $4.2 million. That grant was just enough to purchase a former motel in south Ashland, and partially fund the construction of an ADA accessible elevator. Fully utilizing such a key asset, now called The OHRA Center, brought additional organizational costs ranging from increased staff to remodeling expenses. While these were anticipated expenses, they are proof that “to whom much is given, much is required.” The responsibility for wisely managing and maintaining this new community asset is one OHRA takes very seriously.

Recruiting and paying staff for The OHRA Center’s shelter was an early challenge. The shelter operates 12 months a year, 24 hours a day; in the past OHRA ran a five-month, 12-hour-a-day shelter. OHRA also needed to increase the number of navigators to ensure they are available to our walk-in Resource Center guests as well as the Center’s residents. The increase to staffing, which is critical to the successful operation of our programs, significantly impacted OHRA’s budget. In addition, OHRA must now cover the costs of running a building, including utilities, insurance, laundry, and maintenance.

The remodeling work (as shown below) has also begun.  We are fortunate to have partnered with Golden Fields Construction & Design and Arkitek to ensure The OHRA Center is safe, accessible, efficient and a good fit for OHRA’s programs.

 

Fill in the indoor pool to create usable space

Completed

Install fire sprinklers

Underway

Install ADA accessible elevator

Underway

Build out office space for navigators

Underway

Build out office space for our partners

Underway

Add limited number of ADA accessible bathrooms to some shelter rooms

Underway

Build out offices for administrative staff

Underway

 

“This is a lot of work, but it is work we are delighted to do because of the huge benefits it brings to our guests and our community. With a dedicated and talented staff and a solid track record of helping those in need, we succeeded in securing this Project Turnkey grant through the Oregon Community Foundation,” says Cass Sinclair, OHRA executive director. “Our gratitude to all who made this possible knows no bounds. Stay tuned, there is more work to do, and we will continue to need community support to maximize the benefits of this wonderful asset.”

Since the OHRA Shelter opened at partial capacity on April 1st 2021, we have sheltered 162 guests.

Change for Good Options for Helping Residents of Ashland

 

Guest Stories 

content warning: mention of intention of self harm and suicide

 

“My Coach, My Teammate, My Umpire”

OHRA meticulously tracks and counts the services it provides.  But sometimes it is hard to quantify what may be the most vital service – being a companion on a guest’s road to recovery.

Susan (not her real name) is a guest whose story and note of appreciation to OHRA stressed the value of having someone to lean on when you hit a rough patch.

Susan originally came to OHRA nearly two years ago.  She had been working with an OHRA partner, St. Vincent de Paul, on the problem of stable housing, but then Susan’s car broke down and she lost both transportation and a potential (although not ideal) shelter.  Lead Navigator Tina Stevens worked with Susan and, with other OHRA partners, raised money for car repairs.  However, that did not end the problem of her unsafe housing (couch surfing and even sheltering in a former shop).  Eventually, Susan moved into the OHRA Center as a stop gap.  Tina worked with her to get a HUD and then the housing authority found a landlord who would take the voucher.  Here is part of Susan’s note to OHRA, United Way and St. Vincent de Paul.

“This has been a very long journey. But I wasn’t alone on my path. I had you, Tina.  You had my back through every single step.  I don’t know what I would have done without you rooting me on, being my coach, my teammate and my umpire.”

Susan talked about moving out of her OHRA Center room for its next guest.  “This was a wonderful place to be.  You are all amazing people.”

Voz’s Story

“2008 was the perfect storm. My photography business had been going strong for years, generating more money than I ever imagined. My problems started with the recession which hit the advertising business hard. In addition to the hits on my career, my health was poor and declining.

Flash forward to 2016. I had lost everything - all my savings, my girlfriend of five years, my home and career. I bounced around to Mexico and finally a friend’s couch in California. In the pits of despair, I finally decided to call it quits and end my life. I looked into getting a gun. I still had my Oregon license and could get one if I just crossed the state line. I looked on the map for the first town over the border in Oregon and took a Greyhound up to Ashland. On the way into town, with the warm setting sun washing over the quaint Victorian homes and cute “downtown” I decided to postpone ending my life.

That night I had to sleep on the street for the first time. I don’t recall how I found out about OHRA, but I had the magnificent good fortune of my first time there meeting with lead resource navigator Tina. Her bright smile and welcoming energy were so comforting. She dove right in with addressing my immediate and long-term needs.

Over the past three years OHRA has either facilitated or outright made possible the following for me: Putting together a resume, housing assistance, food assistance, disability, unemployment, collecting stimulus money, filing taxes, and the list goes on. Without resource navigation, none of that would have been possible. 

Today, I am happy to say, I have recently moved into a quaint cottage in central Ashland, I’ve become an active member of the local Unitarian Universalist church and have built a new life for myself here.”

A couple's story: Rapid rehousing stops crisis from snowballing

John and Judy's situation was bleak-- they were living in a motel for two months after losing their jobs and home. Room costs were eating up their savings. John’s chronic disability made sleeping in the car impossible. OHRA’s navigator quickly recognized the couple qualified for COVID Rapid Relief Rehousing funds. OHRA’s navigator found them an apartment just nine days after meeting them. 

When OHRA’s navigator told them “I can get you housed right now,” Judy fell to her knees and cried. Since then, John has secured disability benefits. Judy continues to look for work, but in her words “a world of worry has been lifted.”

A family's story: Hope when everything was lost

A family of agricultural workers came into the Resource Center because COVID had taken their jobs, and the Almeda fire had taken their home. OHRA’s navigator immediately contacted a community partner that found a rental for the family. OHRA connected the family with resources for a deposit and several months’ rent. In a follow-up visit OHRA was also able to secure utility assistance while they got on their feet.

The parents are now employed and deeply grateful for the help during an unthinkable crisis. With his parents stable, the oldest son was able to stay in school and graduate from college.

 

 

Options for Helping Residents of Ashland was voted on by our owners in our 2021 election to be a Change for Good Partner.

Through the cumulative register round up donations over the course of this month ~ our shoppers will help support this local nonprofit organization and the work that they are doing in our community.

Change for Good

 

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