Ashland might open Grove's showers to homeless

ASHLAND — The Grove building on East Main Street could be used to provide showers to homeless men because a local church that offers showers can't meet demand.

The Ashland City Council will consider the idea during one of its January meetings.

The Ashland First Congregational United Church of Christ, 717 Siskiyou Blvd., offers breakfast from 9 to 10 a.m. on Mondays as well as showers for the homeless from 9 a.m. until noon.

Council member Carol Voisin, who sits on the city's Homelessness Steering Committee, said the showers at the church make a big difference for homeless people, but not everyone can have one.

"They have to turn away anywhere between a half dozen and a dozen homeless from taking a shower because there just isn't enough time and the water heater runs out of hot water," she said.

Voisin said the committee hopes council members will consider allowing homeless men to use The Grove's shower from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. on Fridays on a trial basis.

Homeless male teenagers and men outnumber homeless females in Ashland.

The Grove, located across a parking lot from the Ashland Police Department, has a shower in the front offices near the entrance.

The Grove is most often used for community classes and events, including classes offered by the Ashland Parks and Recreation Department.

Parks Director Don Robertson said someone would have to supervise The Grove while showers are taken, and users would need to clean up after themselves. Liability insurance issues also would have to be considered, Robertson said.

But he said the concept seems workable and humane.

"It would be an opportunity for people to clean up a little bit," Robertson said. "I would have a hard time denying anyone a warm shower."

Meanwhile, the city has set up a portable toilet outside its Community Development Building on Winburn Way, near the entrance to Lithia Park.

The city's public restrooms close at night, which left homeless people without a place to go to the bathroom.

In October, a council majority approved installing the portable toilet, which costs about $1,500 per year, on a trial basis through summer 2012.

Keeping a public restroom open overnight would have cost an estimated $8,000 a year because of added custodial and vandalism repair costs.

Also in October, the City Council approved an Ashland Chamber of Commerce request to install homelessness donation boxes downtown. Those have yet to be installed.

Wording for signs near the boxes will be reviewed by the Homelessness Steering Committee in January, said Chamber Visitor and Convention Bureau and Marketing Director Katharine Flanagan.

Some cities that have installed homelessness donation boxes have seen a drop in panhandling near the boxes. Donations from Ashland boxes will be given to a nonprofit that helps homeless people.

Vickie Aldous is a reporter for the Ashland Daily Tidings. She can be reached at 541-479-8199 or

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