City of Medford expands car camping to eligible non-profits, big box stores

MEDFORD, Ore. —With cold weather approaching, Medford City Council Thursday, voted to allow overnight car camping this winter, in more locations in the city. It allows more organizations the flexibility of allowing people to park their cars, at certain businesses overnight.

In 2019, Medford began allowing churches and other faith-based institutions to have *three parking spaces devoted to overnight car camping in Winter. But the city says, no Medford churches took advantage of the opportunity.

Non-profits tell us it’s challenging for church’s to be staffed 24/7 to run the site appropriately under the rules.

“For the last couple of years, the city has tried to work with churches but nobody has stepped up to do it as far as I know,” said Executive Director of Rogue Retreat, Chad McComas.

Now Medford is trying to get more organizations involved to help the homeless, by expanding its ordinance. It lifted the 3 vehicle limit and expanded it to not only faith-based organizations but non-profits as well. For-profit companies, like big box or grocery stores with 24-hour restrooms, could also participate.

“This code proposal does not authorize unregulated wherever people pull over vehicle camping. It is set up in terms of an operator with oversight with sanitation,” said City Attorney Eric Mitton.

Medford City Council says there must be a minimum spacing of 20 feet, cars must be working, and there can be no rent or fee charges. McComas says he’s glad the growing issue is being addressed.

“Any time the city can create a safe place for these people to park, a place where they might have some amenities, it’s going to be a good thing for our community,” said McComas.

Carrie Borgen, the Executive Director of Access, echoes those thoughts.

“I think it is good news, I think it really says a lot for the city that they are concerned about the unhoused community and they are taking real steps to make a difference,” said Borgen.

She says moving forward, Access will work to collaborate with other community partner agencies to figure out how sites would be run.

“As the news gets out and if there are those supportive services to make it being something that is something that is beneficial and welcoming that it might take off and being used more than in the past,” said Borgen.

With this expansion, city leaders hope more organizations will take advantage, and help someone in need.

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Jenna King is the 6pm and 11pm anchor for NBC5 News. Jenna is a Burbank, CA native. She graduated from the University of Oregon with a degree in Broadcast Journalism and a minor in Sports Business. During her time at Oregon she was part of the student-run television station, Duck TV. She also grew her passion for sports through her internship with the PAC 12 Network. When Jenna is not in the newsroom you can find her rooting for her hometown Dodgers, exploring the outdoors or binging on the latest Netflix release.
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