MEDFORD, Ore. — With buy-in from a coalition of non-profit organizations and local agencies, the first Bear Creek Clean-up operation since the advent of coronavirus may have accomplished much more than simply garbage pickup.
After Oregon went into COVID-19 lockdown in mid-March, law enforcement agencies agreed to suspend Greenway "sweep" operations while Jackson County worked to bring in improved sanitation and food delivery to the area.
"As COVID-19 restrictions slowly begin to relax and we move into summer, fire danger is a growing concern as well as the sharp increase of discarded trash accumulation along the Greenway," MPD said on Friday. "In response, the Medford Police Department, in partnership with numerous local service organizations, conducted homeless outreach and cleanup initiatives along the Greenway throughout the past week."
This time, the clean-up included a multi-pronged effort to both beautify the Greenway and connect the houseless with resources. Greenway sweeps typically include handing out some information on resources, and an operation in January was assisted by MPD's Livability Team — but this week's operation may represent the most concerted effort to date.
On Monday, staff from multiple organizations — including ACCESS, Maslow Project, Addictions Recovery Center, Jackson Care Connect, Columbia Care, Veterans Resources, Street Dogs — held a resource fair in Railroad Park, which MPD said was attended by more than 70 people.
“Partnering with other essential service providers helps to ensure we are able to address the needs of each individual receiving outreach services during this effort,” said Medford Police chief Clauson.
Over the past week, MPD said that two people were placed in the Kelly Shelter, seven more applied for housing with the Gospel Mission, and a domestic violence survivor was connected with other housing services.
During the operation, Jackson County Parole and Probation arrested four people on probation violations, and MPD officers arrested two people on "failure to appear" warrants. One person was cited and released for possessing a $2,200 stolen Specialized bike.
Meanwhile, other groups worked to remove roughly 300 cubic yards of garbage from the Greenway, including from within the creek. That included loose garbage, food wrappers, needles, cardboard, drug paraphernalia, and discarded plastic, Medford Police said.
Though garbage pickup happened during the day, much of the outreach occurred late Monday night and into the early hours of Tuesday morning.
“Through previous experiences we have found more success in connecting with individuals when we conduct initiatives during the late evening and early morning time frame,” said Clauson. “Connecting with individuals plays a critical role in determining what items are personal belongings and what items are abandoned and can be removed.”
MPD thanked Medford Parks, Recreation and Facilities, Jackson County Mental Health, Rogue Retreat, Easter Seals Veterans Outreach, Rogue Disposal and St. Vincent de Paul for participating and providing services during the week-long effort.
Next week, the Medford City Council will consider a proposal to create a temporary urban campground for the houseless while COVID-19 persists. That campground would include space for people to stay, hand washing stations, portable restrooms, food, and case management services.
"This week’s initiatives along the Greenway and the efforts to create a temporary urban campground are indicative of the City’s dedication to assist our vulnerable population through a comprehensive effort of working with community partners to provide essential services such as housing, access to health care, food and more," MPD said.
NewsWatch 12 will have further coverage on the temporary campground this evening at 5 and 6 p.m.