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Poverty and Homelessness

City of Medford Wants To Extend Lease For Urban Campground

The Urban Campground shelter in Medford is operated by the non-profit Rogue Retreat.

Last summer, the City of Medford partnered with nonprofit Rogue Retreat to establish an urban campground on private property for homeless people living along the Bear Creek Greenway. The lease on the campground ends at the end of this year. As winter comes on, organizers are struggling to find a place for residents to go.

The fenced-in quarter-acre property located off the greenway in Medford provides 50 tent and pop-up shelter sites with water and sanitary facilities. The city is working with the landowner to expand the space and extend the lease into at least the spring. In the meantime, Rogue Retreat’s Matt Vorderstrasse says organizers hope to find a long-term solution.

“We know that this is something that we want to see be more permanent in the community, and so the timeline going forward is we would like to find a suitable location for it to be located permanently,” Vorderstrasse says.

Before fire tore through the region in mid-September, there were tentative plans on where to move the campground. But after the fires, that land became unavailable. Vorderstrasse says organizers are working to improve the site to make it more comfortable as weather gets colder.

They hope to find a space that can accommodate up to 100 campsites. Vorderstrasse says he wants this to expand into a replicable plan for other towns along I-5.

“I want to see us as a community get to a place where we’re not just talking about exclusionary zones, but we’re creating zones that are safe for people to go to and be able to stay at where services are wrapped around them and ideally help bridge them out of homelessness,” says Vorderstrasse.

Capacity of the campground has already doubled since it opened, and Vordestrasse says he hopes for it to continue to grow in the long-term.