Activists concerned about changes to camping ordinance

MEDFORD, Ore. — Proposed changes to the city of Medford’s camping ordinance could make it harder for people to camp on the Bear Creek Greenway. City Deputy Attorney Eric Mitton said changes to the ordinance are necessary for two reasons. One, the city wants to change the penalty from a ‘violation’ to the lowest class misdemeanor. This change allows police to actually remove a person from a public space.

Two, the ordinance currently prohibits sleeping outside, which Mitton said needs to change in order to be compliant with new federal case law.

He says the ability to remove someone is important after what authorities experienced during the Almeda fire. He said it’s important for the city and the people camping to keep the area safe.

Grassroots organizations oppose these changes saying they’re inhumane. “This is a pretty cruel idea. There are some pretty inhumane policies going into this ordinance. Our overall goal is not not have this ordinance pass,” said Emily Mann with the Housing Justice Alliance Coalition.

Mitton says taking people to jail and fining them is a last resort. He said the livability team will work to find people resources first, before having to take it further.

There is currently a petition against the changes, which you can find here. At the time this article was published, the petition was just over 200 signatures away from its goal.

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