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Poverty and Homelessness

Homeless Advocacy Groups Criticize Medford's Proposed Camping Restrictions

Hawthorne Park Tent City.jpg
Abby Kraft
/
JPR News
Medford's Hawthorne Park got a new tent city when fire chased homeless people away from the Bear Creek bottomlands.

The City of Medford has proposed an ordinance that would tighten the city’s camping restrictions. Homeless advocates are advising the city to reject the proposal.

The National Homelessness Law Center and the Civil Liberties Defense Center both wrote to the city of Medford last week, advising them to not pass a proposed ordinance to change camping laws. The groups say the new regulations would further criminalize homelessness and penalize people left without homes from wildfires.

Eric Mitton is the City Attorney for Medford. He says his office is working to balance the needs of houseless people and keeping public space usable.

"What we’re trying to do is walk a line of balancing multiple competing important interests," said Mitton. "We are trying to find a path where we do respect all of those competing issues and come up with a solution that we feel is both practical and lawfully defensible.”

If the ordinance passed, it would ban people from setting up tents in Medford, including along the Bear Creek Greenway where hundreds of people live. It would also prohibit people from sleeping or lying in public space for more than 24 hours. Violating these ordinances would result in criminal misdemeanor.

The city responded to the letters of criticism, maintaining that it’s lawful to regulate the time, location, and manner of sleeping or resting in a public space.