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Grants Pass narrowly approves $1 million grant for homeless campground


The proposal for an urban campground in the city for homeless residents sharply divided the Grants Pass City Council..

The mayor of Grants Pass broke a 4-4 tie on the city council Wednesday over a grant to AllCare Community Foundation for the construction of a new urban campground.

The decision comes two years after a U.S. District Court found the city’s anti-camping ordinance was unconstitutional, in part because it had no low-barrier shelters.

Council member Dwight Faszer stressed a new campground wouldn’t mean the city can start enforcing its anti-camping ordinance again.

“The enforcement of the parks, the presence of homeless in the parks, and whether or not we decide to build social services in our community – liken to an urban campground – are mutually exclusive; everybody needs to know that," Faszer says.

The city is currently appealing the U.S. District Court’s decision. This is the second time Grants Pass has approved funds for an urban campground. It did so last year, but public outrage of the campgrounds location got the plan scrapped.

Staff with AllCare say the campground would be run in collaboration with Rogue Retreat, the region's largest homeless services provider.

One point of contention surrounded the buffer zone required for the campground. The initial proposal required a 300-foot buffer between the campground and any residential zoning.

But City Manager Aaron Cubic said that buffer could be a death sentence for finding a usable place for the project.

“Any buffer around residential would drastically reduce or make it very difficult to find an urban campground," Cubic says.

AllCare doesn't yet have a site for the campground.

The grant was amended to reduce the residential buffer zone down to 50 feet. Additional buffers remain in place around schools, daycares and public parks.

This campground is one way the city is adding low-barrier shelters to its city services.

Another low-barrier shelter that's also run by Rogue Retreat was opened in March out of the former Kairos building. That shelter has a capacity of 25 and has funding through mid-August, according to reporting from the Grants Pass Daily Courier.

The new grant doesn't outline a specific number of beds the campground has to have, but according to Rogue Retreat's website, they expect to operate around 40 campsites when it opens. AllCare will be required to run the campground for at least six years, according to the terms of the grant.

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 west coast.