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Poverty and Homelessness

Sanitation Services And Meal Deliveries Removed From Bear Creek Greenway

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April Ehrlich
/
JPR News
An encampment along the Bear Creek Greenway

When COVID-19 hit Oregon, the shelter-in-place mandate seemed out of reach for people experiencing homelessness. Although COVID cases are rising, temporary services to homeless campers along Jackson County’s Bear Creek Greenway have been discontinued.

In March, the county partnered with several nonprofits to deliver meals and sanitation resources to people living along the Greenway. That help has now ended.

Instead, the City of Medford and the nonprofit Rogue Retreat are opening a sanctioned urban campground nearby.

Medford city councilor Kevin Stine says it’s a more efficient use of resources, which Rogue Retreat estimates will cost up to $20,000 a month. “We’re using funding that the county got for COVID-19 related matters,” Stine says. “So by taking that money and, instead of what it's doing currently, moving it into the campground, it helps us to better service a couple dozen people in a way that we are not doing now.”

Stine says the risk of wildfire is another big reason to get people off the Greenway.

The new site can hold 25 camps of two people each and there are currently four porta-potties and four handwashing stations on the campsite. There are estimated to be over 100 people currently living along the Greenway.

Medford Police Department's Livability Team is in charge of the selection and invitation process. The Livability team is a group of police officers that primarily work with the people living along the Greenway.

“It’s a selection process,” Stine says. “So if the people on the Greenway see the Livability team walking around, they may very well ask the Livability team if they are selected or if they can be selected.”

While some advocates see the camp as a pilot test for a long term solution, Stine says that the cost is unsustainable.

Medford Police Chief Scott Clauson says there are no plans to bring back encampment sweeps.