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Advocates' survey says homeless residents are frustrated with Rogue Retreat

A row of tents at Rogue Retreat's Urban Campground in Grants Pass.
Rogue Retreat
A row of tents at Rogue Retreat's Urban Campground in Grants Pass.

Unhoused people in Medford are frustrated and distrustful of the region’s largest homeless services provider. That’s according to a recent survey conducted by homeless advocates in the Rogue Valley.

Volunteers with the street outreach project Judi’s Midnight Diner talked with 39 unhoused people over the summer along the Bear Creek Greenway. Results from their survey show 75% of respondents said they don’t trust the Rogue Retreat staff to treat them fairly.

“You know, we ask people what they’d like to see improved or ways that the services could be improved," said Derek DeForest, a volunteer with Judi's Midnight Diner. "A lot of people just talked about wanting to be treated with dignity. One person said ‘Treat people, even if they’re poor like human beings, not garbage.’”

In a statement, Interim Executive Director Bill Ihle said "These incendiary comments are based on outdated and already discredited information." He added the leadership team visits the campground weekly to listen to concerns.

DeForest said they also found conflicting information about how to access Rogue Retreat services from the website and during in-person talks with leadership.

As an example, DeForest said he was told by leadership that Rogue Retreat no longer requires a referral from the Medford Police’s Liveability Team to get into the urban campground. But their website hasn’t been updated, which could deter people from visiting the campground.

The survey took place before a new leadership team was appointed in early September.

On Thursday night the Medford City Council will consider a $1.3 million funding boost to the organization. If approved, it would help the nonprofit address a $2 million deficit in their budget next year.

Roman Battaglia is a regional reporter for Jefferson Public Radio. After graduating from Oregon State University, Roman came to JPR as part of the Charles Snowden Program for Excellence in Journalism in 2019. He then joined Delaware Public Media as a Report For America fellow before returning to the JPR newsroom.