The City Council took a common-sense step toward easing some of the burden of being homeless in Ashland during its Monday meeting by giving city staff the green light to work out details of a program to let people sleep in their vehicles in designated parking spots outside churches or other organizations without fear of being cited for illegal camping.

Another piece of good news is the announcement that organizers have arranged for seven nights of winter shelter for the first time, also thanks to local churches.

The common element in both programs is that homeless people apply for admission and are vetted for behavioral issues, vulnerability and other factors. In the process, some applicants for shelter beds were able to find housing through other programs and never had to use the shelter at all.

Similarly, the vehicle parking program, already offered at the Rogue Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship for nearly two years, gives successful applicants a reserved parking space for 30 days at a time (renewable), allowing them to sleep undisturbed and make it to jobs during the day. The church provides a portable toilet and garbage service. Priority is given to women, children, families, the disabled and the ill.

Allowing the city administrator to issue a permit rather than requiring a lengthy land-use process means more parking spots can be made available more quickly, an important consideration with the weather getting colder.

Neither program is a permanent solution to homelessness, but it offers a bridge to housing for a significant number.

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