Housing advocates push back as Medford enforces new anti-camping ordinance


At least seven campsites along the Bear Creek Greenway were cleared by Medford Police last week under a local ordinance that prohibits people from sleeping outside. The order criminalizes sleeping or lying in public for more than 24 hours at a time.

Supporters of the ordinance say it is an effort to clean up unsanitary conditions and reduce the risk of fires along the Bear Creek Greenway, where many homeless people live.

Jay Hoffman of the Housing Justice Alliance says the ordinance is not a solution to this.

“Continuously moving people around, you know, we’ve heard people say things like, ‘Okay, how can we hide it from them this time? Hoffman says. “This creates even more danger of fire and the spread of COVID with people constantly moving, being displaced and having to start over.”

Medford Police gave 72 hours’ notice before cleaning up the camps. Meanwhile, they brought in resources and social workers to help the homeless get out of their camps. Medford Police said those evicted “had accepted transitional accommodation options or made other arrangements”.

Derek DeForest, a local housing advocate, says the options offered were insufficient.

“So this’ alternative arrangement ‘seems to code for’ we just pushed them somewhere else along the greenway ‘or’ they’re now sleeping in a parking lot ‘or’ they now have a hotel voucher that they can’t. use because they don’t ‘I don’t have any ID’, ”he said. “It doesn’t really seem like an arrangement to me.”

DeForest says a man who was displaced from his camp was given a hotel voucher, but was unable to use it because he did not have ID to check in at the hotel. Now, instead of sleeping in a tent, he sleeps in his truck.

Evictions also raise health concerns. The National Homelessness Law Center wrote to the city last week, saying the order violated CDC COVID guidelines and raised constitutional concerns about cruel and unusual punishments.

They also said that because accessible local shelters have several hundred applicants on the waiting list, homeless people do not have access to an alternative shelter.

Previous court rulings say it is illegal to prohibit people from sleeping outside without an alternative. They say because the Kelly Shelter – the only low-barrier shelter, open year-round in Medford – has more than 580 people on the waiting list, reasonable alternatives are not available.

Although public camping in Medford is now a criminal offense, no one was arrested in the past week. But police say those sweeps will continue for months.

Housing advocate Jay Hoffman said he saw people’s belongings being dumped before bulldozers passed through the camps.

“I am very grateful that people weren’t put in jail. But that bar is so low, ”says Hoffman. “The fact that people’s homes have just been completely demolished. You know, these are houses, and the police don’t see it that way.

Medford Police did not respond to the request for comment.

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