Medford library hosts panel on homelessness with local gov’t officials

MEDFORD, Ore. – The Medford library hosted it’s first homelessness panel, inviting the community out to listen to local government leaders about what they are doing to help the unhoused.

Medford deputy city manager Kelly Madding, Medford police chief Justin Ivens and Ashland police chief Tighe O‘meara were there. 

Medford library director, Kari May, said the idea to have the panel came from issues they’ve seen there.

“We have a variety of people that come into our library, housed and un-housed,” she said. “And we’ve gotten some concerned parents who for example say they don’t feel safe bringing their children to the library anymore and getting some of same types of questions of what are we doing and how are we making the library a safe place for everyone.”

Dozens of people showed up to the forum.

Many were upset with how Medford is handling the homelessness crisis.

Several people brought up the city’s sweeps at parks, the livability program and how the city is treating the unhoused differently.

But madding said this isn’t a simple issue to fix.

It’s becoming a statewide problem.

“I think that’s why there were as many people as there were tonight,” Madding said. “And there is many thoughts about helping and assisting and providing programs to people who are unhoused, as there probably are un-housed people because the issue is so complex.”

The panel answered many questions about homeless shelters, mental health resources., how to get help for those in need and much more.

The city listed several projects, like Project Turnkey, the navigation center and the urban campground, as ways they believe have helped the homeless community.

“Our city council is concerned and wants to see positive steps toward providing housing to people who are unhoused,” Madding said.

However, several people in the audience submitted questions on why the people on the panel were chosen.

Saying they were unhappy that the unhoused were unrepresented. 

May said because it was the first panel, they wanted to see who would show up first.

She believes the next forum will have different perspectives on hand.

NBC5 News reporter Zachary Larsen grew up in Surprise, Arizona. He graduated from Arizona State University's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism. At ASU, Zack interned at Arizona Sports 98.7FM and Softball America. During his Junior year, Zack joined the ASU Sports Bureau. He covered the Fiesta Bowl, the Phoenix Open and major basketball tournaments. Zack enjoys working out, creative writing, music, and rooting for his ASU Sun Devils.
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