MEDFORD, Ore. — After delivering 72-hour notices of prohibited camping to sites along the Bear Creek Greenway on Monday, the Medford Police Livability Team returned on Tuesday to continue outreach efforts before enforcement begins in earnest.
According to the Livability Team, this process has been in the works for about three weeks — and they want to make sure that they are doing this the right way, connecting people currently camped on the Greenway with services.
"In our opinion, it was needed to address the camps down here and the safety hazards for the people living here, as well as the hazards to the environment itself and the city as a whole," said Livability officer Mike Wulff. "I think after Almeda, we all saw what can happen if fires, unchecked . . . that was on the Greenway, went up the Greenway."
Once the 72 hours are up, the City of Medford says that crews will assist anyone left behind with the removal of their belongings from the Greenway, followed by a clean-up of the area. Those who refuse to leave can be charged with a misdemeanor under the new ordinance.
MPD intends to start clean-up on Thursday — and next week, the process will begin all over again, until the entire Medford section of Bear Creek has been cleared.
NewsWatch 12's Adam Schumes accompanied the Livability Team on Tuesday. He spoke with Rachel Orrick, who has been camping on the Greenway. Orrick said that she's been without housing for about the last four years.
"I went with someone to pick up their things . . . turns it it wasn't their things," Orrick said, describing how she got there. "We got pulled over, they took off, and I ended up getting charged for it. Because of that I lost my job . . . losing my job, I ended up losing my apartment. I lost my car that night, didn't have the money to get it out."
Orrick described the fallout of her arrest as a snowball effect, and now she finds herself at the bottom of the mountain. She said that life has been a struggle, but some of the houseless try to pull together and support one another.
"Honestly, I've been caught between a rock and a hard place . . . my son is out here too, and he is real stubborn," Orrick said. "I refuse to really leave him out here by himself — and granted he is almost 21, but he is just still my baby boy."
Orrick didn't say where she would go next. Medford's prohibited camping notices refer people to shelter options — Rogue Retreat's urban campground, the Gospel Mission, and St. Vincent de Paul — but those options aren't new to those who have been without housing for years, and availability can fluctuate. For some, eviction from Medford's stretch of the Greenway might just mean packing up to set up camp somewhere else.
"We got to stay here quite a while in one spot, so we got kind of comfortable with it, and having to move just really sucks," Orrick said.