ASHLAND,Ore. — There are a number of homeless individuals in Downtown Ashland. On Wednesday, the community came together to address an issue that they say really affects everyone.
Leigh Madsen has worked with the homeless population for years now.
“The softness and the tenderness of these people, and to come here and see these people and listen to their stories, we can’t miss the fact they are human,” said Madsen.
Representatives from Dignity Village, an encampment of about 60 homeless people near Portland International Airport, came to Ashland on Wednesday night to discuss similar options for Ashland’s homeless.
“Homeless people can self govern; homeless people can negotiate with the city; homeless people can do these things if they’re just given the opportunity,” explained Madsen.
Representatives answered pressing questions about costs and public safety. They explained community donations and grants cover the expense of shelters and food. They also touched on their no tolerance rule for violence and their 12 year relationship with the city of Portland, a partnership they argue can prevent erratic behavior.
“Somewhere to live, somewhere to rest, because without that people get so traumatized and so damaged that they can’t function,” said Madsen.
Some residents said while violence may not be an issue, it’s another type of public disturbance that concerns them. Steve Richie worries panhandling can drive tourists away. Richie also feels Ashland is not the optimal place for a transient population to begin their financial recuperation.
“There’s no fast food base, there aren’t any entry level jobs in Ashland. It’s a tourist community that dries up in the winter,” said Richie.
“But we don’t have any mechanism for transients without money? One we call tourists, the other we call homeless,” argued Sangye Tendzin, who was previously homeless.
There is no concrete plans as of yet, but both sides agree that it will take a community effort to make any changes.