MEDFORD, Ore. -- On Thursday night, the Medford City Council voted unanimously to allow people to sleep overnight in church parking lots, as long as the people are sleeping in their vehicles.
Several people voiced their opinions, agree or disagree, about the ordinance at Thursday’s meeting. Some were church pastors, some regular citizens, some were policemen, and firefighters.
One major concern heard at the meeting was safety, and the kind of people that could be staying.
Murray Richmond, Pastor of the First Presbyterian Church, assured the council that people sleeping in cars are not dangerous.
"A lot of people that I see that are living in cars are not dealing with drug and alcohol problems. They have just had an economic downturn in their life," Richmond said.
Vehicles have to be at least 20 feet apart from each other, in order to prevent a fire starting with one car, and jumping to other cars.
"This gives them a little bit of hope. A place where they can stay that is safe. Sleeping on the street at night is not safe. When you have your car and you're holding on to that, then there is every possibility that you can continue to move on," Richmond said.
Sanitation was another major element to the vote. Churches that allow people to stay in the parking lot must provide bathrooms with hand washing stations.
The ordinance also allows the churches to protect themselves. They are allowed to ask anyone to leave, and the vehicle must be able to leave in the morning. It is simply an overnight stay.
Almost the entire council agreed that the code is not perfect yet, but can easily be tweaked, and gives the city a good starting point.