City of Medford approves funding for permanent urban campground

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MEDFORD, Ore. – The city of Medford is taking another step this week to end homelessness in the region. Medford City Council on Thursday voted in favor of CB 2021-157, to use $ 1 million to build a permanent urban campground in the city.

Today, the city of Medford told NewsWatch 12 that it has been in talks with Rogue Retreat for some time to build a permanent site, but that it is a matter of timing and funding.

The hope is that once a new permanent location is built, Rogue Retreat will be able to help even more of the people currently living on the streets to get back on their feet. On top of that, amenities that Rogue Retreat has only recently been able to offer to the homeless in its current urban campground, such as electricity, air conditioning and heating, will be commonplace at the new site.

Rogue Retreat also told NewsWatch 12 on Friday that they were hoping for other resources towards the permanent location, such as easier access to water, bathrooms and even showers.

But for a man from Medford, that opportunity was lost due to the dangerous freezing temperatures.

Earlier this week, Medford Police confirmed to NewsWatch 12 that Manuel Barboza-Valerio, 29, has died most likely due to hypothermia. Police confirmed to NewsWatch 12 that several of his clothes were not on him when police found his body.

“It’s really scary,” said Brooke Amlin, who lived on the streets. “You just don’t know when you fall asleep if you’re going to wake up the next day or if you’re going to freeze to death.”

Amlin told NewsWatch 12 on Friday that she was 100% on board with the city of Medford providing a permanent urban campground, but wishes officials had taken the step sooner.

“I think they should have opened it earlier, really,” Amlin said. “Give everyone else a chance who are suffering. Everyone deserves a chance. Everyone deserves the opportunity to have a place where they feel safe, to feel at home, to feel welcome, to be. feel warm and not to be frozen outside. “

Earlier this week, the Housing Justice Alliance responded to Barboza-Valerio’s death by saying the city of Medford should reconsider its most controversial policies, including its camping ordinance. The group said the city should “declare an immediate moratorium on the city’s ban on camping, lying and sleeping” ordinance this winter.

The current city ordinance on camping prohibits the installation of a tent or a campground in a public space such as parks or along the greenway. In the ordinance, there are exceptions to this rule according to which the city manager or the mayor, in the event of an emergency or serious event, may authorize the use of tents or camps.

But according to Maig Tinnin, this can sometimes take way too long and also makes it more difficult for people living on the streets to prepare.

“To take a big tent with you in the hope that maybe at some point the city manager on a very cold night will declare a cold weather emergency and allow you to pitch that tent for one night, no he it’s not possible for people to do it, ”said Tinnin, a Housing Justice Alliance volunteer. “They are pushing each other, they are in crisis and they are carrying everything they have with them on their backs and trying to survive.”

Tinnin also sent NewsWatch 12 an email earlier this week claiming that ACCESS had started denying people entry to the heated shelter at 685 Market Street on the night of Barboza-Valerio’s death, due to its full capacity.

NewsWatch 12 contacted ACCESS who said no one had been refused entry since the heated shelter opened last week.

NewsWatch 12 also reached out to the city of Medford on Friday to ask what it plans to do to keep people living on the streets safe during the winter months and as freezing temperatures become more frequent.

Kelly Madding, Deputy City Manager for Medford, told NewsWatch today that she will do all she can to protect the streets from freezing temperatures, but also said in the same breath that if more warming centers are to open, the community help may be needed.

“The city and ACCESS provide both ACCESS to volunteers, providing winter shelter,” Madding said. “The way our code reads, a nonprofit or four-goal entity might decide they want to get people out of the cold and allow people to be there overnight. So in a way I think it’s a call. to the community too. “


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