S.O. Close to Homeless: Part Thirteen

Medford, Ore. — NBC5 News is partnering with Access to start a community discussion, and bring you an in-depth look into the lives of people who are homeless, have been homeless, or who are very close to it. In week 13, we’re going inside a Medford Police patrol car to see how officers walk the line of enforcing the law while treating everyone with respect.

Medford police officer Nick Alden is just starting his shift at 8 p-m. He says no day is ever the same.

“It’s Friday night in Medford, there’s always a lot going on,” Alden said.

Even though there are more than 10 officers on the street, the calls are coming in faster than they can answer. And while each call is important, for Alden, one stands out. An 18 year old man at the Medford Gospel Mission, thinking of harming himself.

Alden responded to the mission, where he spoke with staff, who had called. They led him to the man, who was just inside the building. Alden began talking to the man, who said he was struggling on the street.

“You were sleeping outside?” Alden asked.

“Yeah,” the man answered.

“Oh ok, well this is a good place you found,” Alden said.

A few minutes of conversation reveals an all too common situation. The man says his life in the past few years has been unstable, even causing him to drop out of high school. Alden learns the man is struggling to find work, and place to live. It ultimately forced him onto the street.

“It’s been rough,” Alden observed.

While Alden assures him the Gospel Mission is a good place to stay in the future, the man’s concerning comments to staff take the option off the table on this night.

“I’d like to take you up to the hospital, and the reason for that is, I’d like to take you up to go talk to somebody,” Alden said.

With suitcases and a sleeping bag in the trunk, Alden takes the man to Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center’s Psychiatric Care Unit.

Alden says he works with people struggling with homelessness, and other related problems everyday. But he says their circumstances don’t change how officers interact with them.

“They’re a person, and so we want to treat them with dignity and respect, and we do our hardest to try to maintain that level of professionalism and treat them like a human being, because that’s what they are,” Alden said.

For this case, after taking the man to the hospital, Alden’s work is over. But to him, the problem of homelessness is far from solved.

“We’ll enforce the law as much as we can, and will try to help facilitate resources, but I think ultimately, it’s the community, everybody in the city and in this area coming together to help these people out,” Alden said.

To learn more about local resources, visit soclosetohomeless.org.

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