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Rogue Retreat Rises to the Occasion

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On October 5, several local non-profits banded together to host a Zoom Q&A with some of the candidates running for office in Jackson County. (Archived footage of debate available.)

Not surprisingly, much of the discussion focused upon the recent wildfires, as well as how to respond to the lack of affordable housing, given the additional loss of 2357 residential structures. During their comments, many of the candidates made reference to the successful programs run by one non-profit in particular—Medford-based, Rogue Retreat.

People end up without a roof over their heads for a variety of reasons. Beyond property damage by wildfire, and job-loss due to international pandemics, individuals might find themselves houseless because of substance abuse, PTSD, psychiatric illness, fleeing domestic violence, excessive debts (medical, college, etc.), changes in landlord ownership…The list goes on. Each circumstance calls for a different set of solutions, posing targeting-challenges for agencies who would be of assistance.

Rogue Retreat initially started off in 1998 as an addiction recovery program. By 2006, the organization’s mission had expanded to providing housing, case-management, and job training for its clients. Its programs include a group of tiny houses in Medford (Hope Village) with a second Village under construction in Grants Pass, a 54-bed, year-round shelter (Kelly Shelter), several houses with low-rent units, and an urban campground in Medford.

Prior to the Almeda Fire, members of the Rogue Retreat team were in consultation with Ashland city officials about establishing a Hope Village here as well. For now, the Ashland project has been temporarily tabled, as the group’s focus shifted to assisting a portion of the Talent and Phoenix residents who lost their homes.

Currently, the Medford urban campground consists of 40 living spots—10 small sheds intended to house medically distressed individuals, and 30 tents sheltered by cloth canopies. Social counseling is made available through the Medford Police Department. According to Rogue Retreat’s Development Director, Matthew Vorderstrasse, the agency is working with the Medford City Council to identify a larger piece of land upon which to relocate, in order to double the number of campsites.

Conveniently this expansion comes just as Pallet, an innovative Seattle-based company which produces low-cost, easy-to-assemble, transitional mini-houses, has donated ten of their structures to the cause. Rogue Retreat is hoping to crowd-fund an additional ten Pallet units for the new campground.

The other project Rogue Retreat has initiated in response to the fire is a used-RV distribution program. So far, fifteen community members have donated their RVs to the agency. Rogue Retreat facilitates a secondary transfer of ownership of these RVs to families who were displaced by the fire. For now, the RVs are parked on the Jackson County Expo grounds. But the greater vision is for the organization to purchase one of the burned-out RV parks along Bear Creek. Once the burn scar has been safely cleaned up, the thought is to establish a semi-permanent facility supporting 100 privately-owned units.

Clearly, Rogue Retreat’s worthy programs require on-going funding. To learn more about Rogue Retreat, or to make an on-line donation. To donate your RV, or inquire about ways to volunteer, contact: Matthew Vorderstrasse, 541-499-0880 Ext. 1060.

As for Ashland, Vorderstrasse suggested that the city would be wise to create supervised campgrounds for the unhoused– if nothing else, in order to keep watch over cooking fires.

At this writing, the State has still not determined the cause of the Almeda Fire. Ashland Fire Department’s, Chris Chambers, cautioned that a civic-run campground might not have prevented this particular tragedy. At the same time, it might have averted the deaths of two unhoused people along the Greenway.

In any case, the entire county does need to provide additional affordable housing. Now is the time for community members to evaluate which candidates you think will follow through effectively, and VOTE accordingly.






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