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Poverty and Homelessness

Medford City Council Votes To Pass Ordinance To Restrict Camping, Sleeping

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Sydney Dauphonais / JPR News
Advocates for unhoused people demonstrate in front of Medford City Hall Thursday as the city council prepared to vote on revisions to the city's Prohibited Camping Ordinance.

The Medford City Council has approved a controversial ordinance that would ban camping in the area. People in opposition say the measure criminalizes homelessness.

Dozens of housing activists protested outside Medford’s City Hall during Thursday night’s city council meeting. They strongly oppose amendments to the city's Prohibited Camping Ordinance that would make it a crime for people to sleep or lie in a public space for more than 24 hours.

Clay Bearnson, one of the council members who voted in opposition, says the ordinance doesn’t address the root causes of homelessness.

“It’s not going to solve anything," said Bearnson. "Fires aren’t going to stop on the Greenway. It’s not going to make criminal behavior disappear. It’s not going to make us have more transitional housing, permanent supportive housing… Until we actually have all of the housing available that we need, we are going to continue to keep beating our head against the wall with ordinances like this.”

Supporters say the law will decrease fire risk and litter along the Bear Creek Greenway, as well as increase neighborhood safety.

Council member Kevin Stine voted in support. He says these regulations will encourage unhoused people to seek services and improve livability for others.

“You’re saying, 'I don’t like the fires and I don’t like the drug use, but I’m going to do nothing about it.'" Stine said. "I have love and compassion for the people that said, 'When I was a kid my parent took me to the greenway and we rode our bikes. And now I try to take my kids there, and I can’t.'”

The council voted 6-2 to approve the changes on Thursday night. A second reading was held on April 2 to finalize the measure.