MEDFORD, Ore. —A new Medford prohibited camping ordinance was first proposed by the city in early February. City Attorney Eric Mitton says the Housing Advisory Committee passed it unanimously Wednesday.
“This does not leave an individual with no place to go,” says Mitton.
The proposed ordinance prohibits pitching tents on city deemed property unless otherwise specified. The city says exceptions will be made during severe weather events or organized approved tent camping operations, like Rogue Retreat’s Urban Campground.
“We want to make sure that we do keep public property available for its original intended purpose for all of the community to use but we also want to make sure consistent with law and consistent with just good practice that we’re respecting individual rights,” says Mitton.
The city of Medford says these changes need to be made for the health and safety of the community. Fire on the Bear Creek Greenway is its top concern.
“There’s a number of sources where a fire can start just from people living in vegetation that was not ideally suited to that situation to where a small fire can become very big very quickly,” says Mitton.
If passed by the city council, someone sleeping along the Greenway could receive a misdemeanor with a penalty of up to $500. Currently, they are cited.
The Medford Gospel Mission’s Jason Bull has been dealing with homelessness in Medford for 20 years. He’s seen the homeless population grow in the last year.
“We have St. Vincent De Paul, Hearts With A Mission who has a youth shelter and they also have a transitional living program,” says Bull.
“I think there are plenty of options for them other than camping upon the Greenway,” says Bull.
So Bull is behind the city’s proposal, he hopes it will lead the homeless to visit local non-profits like his, to get the help they need.
“Right now I think we have a lot of great programs and resources for homeless people in our community,” says Bull.
Mitton says the ordinance is estimated to go before the city council on April 1st.