MEDFORD, Ore. —The city of Medford is declaring a severe weather event, starting on Saturday. Along with this, the city is temporarily lifting its tent restrictions, associated with the prohibited camping ordinance.
The city of Medford is bracing for a winter storm.
“It’s supposed to be significantly cold, it’s supposed to snow,” said Kelly Madding, Deputy City Manager.
Medford’s city manager issued a severe weather event declaration on Thursday, that goes into effect December 25th through the 27th. This declaration allows the severe weather shelter on 685 Market Street to open.
“I confirmed with a variety of people access, the livability team, and our emergency manager to look at the weather conditions to make that decision,” said Madding.
The city also decided to not enforce tent restrictions during the severe weather declaration. Just last spring, the city council approved an ordinance prohibiting camping in many areas of the city. 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.
“The prohibited camping ordinance has a provision in it that allows the city manager to exempt that regulation that prohibits tent camping so in certain circumstances the city manager can provide tent camping, this is one of those situations,” said Madding.
Madding says one councilor brought up the idea of not enforcing the ordinance all winter long. But the city didn’t move forward with that.
Instead, the council decided not to enforce it, only during severe weather declarations.
“The livability team had done good work this summer and they didn’t want to step back to a situation to where there were lots of tents on the greenway and it took most of the summer to provide services to those people and to eliminate that tent camping.”
Madding says the decision was backed by the livability team, police department, and Access. Housing advocate, Maig Tinnin says she’s glad the city is taking some action. But would rather see a long-term solution.
“People’s tents have already been taken, you can’t just make a switch for people in these situations on a dime and expect the impact to be immediate
When the severe declaration expires, the regulation against tent camping will resume.
“What going to happen on the 28th when the tent ban is now happening and they are no longer allowed to have that are they gonna have to haul their tent and stuff around until the next time.”
Tinnin says her housing advocates group will start spreading the word about the temporary change and start collecting tents for those in need.