MEDFORD, Ore. —The city of Medford has officially approved a new law that changes existing camping rules. But, the new rule has many in the community upset.
The ordinance passed with a 5-1 vote by City Councilors Friday. Now, it’s a misdemeanor if an individual is found sleeping along the greenway or Prescott Park during fire season. Other times of the year it’s allowed if they don’t use a tent or have a campfire.
“Camping along the Bear Creek Greenway is posing significant health and safety risk,” said Tim D’Alessandro, Council President.
Medford City Council making it official, creating a new camping law in the city. After petitions started both for and against the controversial law, the city went through around 100 public comments before the city council approved it 5 to 1 Friday.
“We’ve had two homicides occur along the greenway in the past month, two fires just yesterday, and an overall increase in calls for service for both fire and police,” said D’Alessandro.
Here’s what that means
1. Camping on the greenway and Prescott Park would not be allowed from May 1st to September 30th, as a fire precaution.
2. It would allow officers to physically remove a person who refuses social services or to move to a new location.
3. Finally, it would eliminate the prohibition of tent camping and sleep outdoors, to better align with case law.
4. The amendment would also list specific times, places, and regulations for sleeping outside and camping.
“Our officers do have the ability to remove people, we hope it does not get to that place and we will do everything we can to try to not have it get to that place,” said Kelly Madding, Deputy City Manager.
Despite this, many are still divided on the issue. A Medford attorney is already talking about filing a federal lawsuit over the new law. Others are calling it unconstitutional, and inhumane.
“Just really wondering what comes next and how we continue fighting against this because we’re going to continue fighting,” says homeless advocate, Maig Tinnin.
Last night and this morning, community members and organizations like the housing justice alliance gathered in front of city hall to show their opposition to the law. Tinnin has been doing outreach work for the homeless for a year now.
“Most of us are just heartbroken that we live in a city that wants to criminalize people for trying to survive,” said Tinnin.
The city says it’s actively working to create solutions to address challenges with homelessness in the community. It’s touting its role in creating and funding the Urban Campground and a new Project Turnkey effort, to transform an existing motel into 47 units of transitional housing for fire victims.
It says it’s also working to assist individuals living along the greenway for emergency housing and social services. A resource fair will be put on by the city’s livability team on April 9th at Hawthorne Park. Individuals can learn more about programs like urban campgrounds and also get their covid vaccines.