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Groups rally against Medford's proposed camping ordinance

A coalition of local advocates are taking aim at a new camping ordinance under consideration by the City of Medford.

Posted: Mar 16, 2021 3:42 PM
Updated: Mar 16, 2021 3:58 PM

MEDFORD, Ore. — A coalition of local advocates is taking aim at a new camping ordinance under consideration by the City of Medford, one that could have long-term consequences for the local homeless population.

Medford City Council began looking for a revised camping ordinance in February — attempting to carve out a path to enforce prohibitions against camping along the Bear Creek Greenway and other public sites without running afoul of several relevant court decisions and two bills making their way through the Oregon legislature.

According to the City's initial proposal, sleeping would be prohibited in these areas during fire season and violations would be classified as a misdemeanor "as opposed to simply delivering monetary citations." Tent camping — beyond just temporarily sleeping — would be prohibited on public property year-round, with a similar misdemeanor penalty.

Despite assurances from Medford's legal counsel that the "City is not taking an enforcement-only approach to homelessness," a newly-formed organization of local advocates is sounding the alarm about the proposal. The Housing Justice Alliance has launched an online petition urging the City Council to reject the ordinance and work with community groups to address the root causes of homelessness.

“People lost their jobs during the pandemic, and wildfires destroyed over 2,000 homes last fall,” said Reverend Murray Richmond of the First Presbyterian Church in Medford. “Throwing people in jail because they can’t find a place to rent – when there are very few places available – is going to hurt more people. Fining people who don't have any money is just a waste of time.”


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The group pointed out that Medford's proposed ordinance would make sleeping in a tent illegal even during the winter months, with penalties of up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine for the misdemeanor violation.

“We know unhoused people ready to take legal action,” said Nick Murphy, another member of the Housing Justice Alliance. “But I hope it doesn’t come to that. While we’re fighting in the courts, people will be dying in the streets.”

In 2018, a homeless woman filed a class action suit against the City of Grants Pass for its prohibitions against sleeping. A judge ruled in her favor, though the City has appealed. This case, Blake v. Grants Pass, is one that Medford has tried to work around — in part, by considering the year-round ban on tent camping, but carving out a space for sleeping during all but the summer months.

The Housing Justice Alliance referenced a letter that they say Christine-Marie Caligiuri recently wrote to the City. Caligiuri, the group said, lost her housing last year and has been living in a tent along the Greenway in Medford.

“We are everyday people, just like you – but sadly, not in a home,” Caligiuri wrote. “Please don’t make it more difficult to survive out here."

The Medford City Council is expected to vote on the ordinance in early April. In the meantime, the Housing Justice Alliance says that it is working with homeless people who would be impacted by the change to gather testimonies.

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Multnomah50840642
Washington34683272
Marion32181388
Clackamas26315270
Lane23632246
Jackson20753255
Deschutes16401100
Umatilla12552125
Douglas10599185
Linn1030285
Josephine8536163
Yamhill737299
Klamath637891
Polk617770
Malheur475867
Benton454027
Coos406469
Columbia320237
Jefferson310446
Lincoln272829
Union266036
Wasco236739
Crook212137
Clatsop210225
Tillamook179623
Baker171920
Morrow166621
Curry166317
Hood River161635
Harney77115
Grant7538
Lake6608
Wallowa50111
Gilliam1364
Sherman1283
Wheeler651
Unassigned00

California Coronavirus Cases

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Cases: 4636268

Reported Deaths: 67966
CountyCasesDeaths
Los Angeles144412725849
Riverside3575584802
San Diego3492274006
San Bernardino3468955501
Orange3135295354
Sacramento1498662070
Santa Clara1403871841
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Alameda1160681320
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San Joaquin971621615
Contra Costa95595924
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San Mateo52172607
San Francisco51808605
Monterey49445565
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Santa Barbara43065500
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Placer36390364
Imperial34235755
Kings30038285
San Luis Obispo28273313
Madera21672258
Butte21205230
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Santa Cruz20134211
Yolo19118239
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