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Churches on Board With Possible Ordinance Change

Homeless people may soon be able to sleep in their cars in Medford legally but only in church parking lots.

Posted: Feb. 7, 2019 6:26 PM

MEDFORD, Ore. -- Homeless people may soon be able to sleep in their cars in Medford legally but only in church parking lots. 

The City Council held a public hearing on Council Bill 2019-06 Thursday night. 

Several church leaders are on board with the change that would allow homeless people to sleep in their cars in church parking lots. 

The ordinance does come with some rules. Churches can only allow a maximum of three parking spaces. The spaces must be at least 20 feet apart, and anyone inside those cars cannot stay in the lot all day. 

Pastor Lauralee Kent with the Medford Congregational United Church of Christ said she personally knows someone who would benefit from the rule. 

"In my experience, people who still have a vehicle are usually pretty high functioning and able to manage that and are working hard to get jobs," Kent said. 

Pastor Murray Richmond with the First Presbyterian Church in Medford agreed there is a misunderstanding about people who have to sleep in their cars. 

"They're not homeless due to drugs or alcohol, they've either lost their apartments or lost their jobs," Richmond said. 

If passed, the ordinance would also require churches to provide a restroom and hand-washing station.

Kent said the latter would be simple, but it will take some brainstorming to figure out how to make a restroom available. 

Richmond said he has several questions about the ordinance, and he wants to know what happens if a fourth car shows up to a lot. 

"How are they going to enforce this, would they just move the people or would the churches be on the hook?" Richmond said. 

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