24 hour notice given to Hawthorne Park tent city

MEDFORD, Ore. — “It’s hurtful. It’s hurtful out here. It’s hurtful the way people treat mankind like we’re not mankind. Like we don’t matter,” said Christine Marie, who is living at Hawthorne Park.

Marie is one of dozens of homeless people who’ve taken up residence at Medford’s Hawthorne Park camping illegally on the property.

Police tell us the tent city sprang up within the last week with people living in the public park from as far as California, Idaho, and Washington.

“What else do we got,” said Marie. “You want to arrest me city cause I want to live? You’re gonna arrest us cause we want to live?”

On Monday, Marie and others got a notice giving the group 24 hours to leave.

“It’s just disheartening. I got swim lessons when this was a pool here at Hawthorne Park when I was a kid,” said Lt. Trevor Arnold, Medford Police Dept.

Police say their presence at the park is a health and safety issue for the city of Medford.

“It’s gotten worse over the last several days. As I’m walking through here this morning, I’m trying to avoid stepping on spots where there’s human feces, there’s needles, there’s drug paraphernalia,” said Lt. Arnold.

A self proclaimed group of concerned citizens calling itself ‘Hawthorne Mutual Aid’ says it organized the camp for people displaced by Oregon fires.

Lt. Arnold says the group is not an official non-profit and says only two people were fire victims taken to the Jackson County Expo.

“While it may look like organized chaos, there’s no structure to it,” Lt. Arnold said. “There’s no structure to the organization or at least none that they want to share with us.”

Lt. Arnold says officers are going from tent to tent trying to get people connected to resources.

34 people were connected with services from local non-profit Rogue Retreat and 36 people refused, like Frederick Matt who says he doesn’t want to move into a shelter.

“And there are rules whatever that might be and we’ve been in shelters and the rules are rigorous,” said Matt. “This system has been designed to fail you.”

With time running out, officers say they’re empathetic about what folks are going through but say they need to make the park safe again for families to use.

“No one needs to go to jail. That’s not what we want to do. We don’t want to displace anyone any further. But a public park is not a tent city,” said Lt. Arnold.

Local non-profit Compassion Highway Project, which usually provides services for the homeless at the park, tells NBC5 New it is not running the operation.

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