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Poverty and Homelessness

Homeless Camp Continues To Grow In Medford Public Park Following Wildfires

A collection of about 70 tents have appeared at Hawthorne Park in Medford following wildfires that displaced thousands of people.
April Ehrlich / JPR News
A collection of about 70 tents have appeared at Hawthorne Park in Medford following wildfires that displaced thousands of people.

A collection of tents continues to grow in a public park in Medford after last week’s deadly wildfires. Public testimony for and against the camp took up much of the time at Thursday’s city council meeting.

About 30 people signed up to speak about the camp at Hawthorne Park, including resident Victoria Wood, who told councilors that there aren’t many options for unsheltered people.

“The camp at Hawthorne Park is a very temporary solution to a very permanent problem,” Wood said. “We really need a more permanent way to take care of our houseless population.”

The Almeda Fire burned through the Bear Creek Greenway between Talent and Phoenix, where many people have been camping during the pandemic due to lack of shelter space.

The fire has displaced thousands of people who lost their homes, as well as some people who were sleeping along the greenway.

Since then, about 70 tents and a food pantry have popped up in Hawthorne Park near the center of Medford. Camp organizers say many people staying there have been displaced by the Almeda Fire.

Some speakers asked for city police to clear the camp. They expressed fears that the encampment would breed crime, including drug abuse and sexual assault. Others asked for councilors to find another shelter solution.

“Take them to someplace where they could be watched over, cared for,” speaker Rayann Rich told councilors. “If they need attention, they could get that. Right now we’re not seeing that. We’re watching what was a nice icon of a park be turned into something else nobody else can use.”

Councilors didn’t take any action regarding the camp since it wasn’t on their agenda. It’s unclear what action, if any, the city will take about the ongoing encampment.