The Mayor, City Council, and staff receive several communications from residents and business owners on a weekly basis asking what the City is doing to address homelessness in our area. It's no secret that municipal and county agencies throughout the country are struggling to find a balance to provide appropriate services including housing, which is the single biggest issue we face today.
Homelessness is a complex, challenging issue and a priority for the City. We’re actively working with partners to reduce hardships that lead to the homelessness of our residents and families with children and increase access to affordable housing for those at-risk of becoming homeless.
The City recently completed a Homeless System Action Plan producing five recommended goals and 31 actions to address homelessness in Medford. City Council is currently in the process of reviewing the recommended actions for potential implementation during the 2019-21 biennium.
Council also allocated $100,000 towards the implementation of the Action Plan; and $50,000 to create a homeless reunification program to reunite homeless individuals with family or friends outside of Medford, as appropriate.
Housing Opportunity Funds:
Two Medford area nonprofits were awarded a combined $400,000 to increase permanent housing for veterans and provide shelter for homeless youth.
On November 7 the Medford City Council approved the Housing Advisory Commission’s (HAC) recommendation to award funds collected from the Construction Excise Tax (CET) to Hearts with a Mission Homeless and Columbia Care.
Hearts with a Mission received $150,000 in gap funding to complete the construction of a 12-bed homeless youth shelter serving youth ages 10-17. Columbia Care received $250,000 to develop 16 units of permanent supportive housing for low-income Veterans. The housing complex will offer single-room occupancy and family living occupancy with onsite support services.
The HAC received and evaluated six proposals from local organizations seeking funding. Projects were evaluated based on their ability to accomplish a least one of the following objectives:
The CET was established by City Council in February 2018 and is a one-third of one percent tax on the value of residential, commercial, and industrial improvements to provide funding for affordable housing in Medford.
- Create new rental units
- Increase homeownership opportunities
- Facilitate land acquisition and infrastructure development for housing
- Purchase and preserve existing affordable housing
- Develop permanent supportive housing for homeless and special needs populations
- Support transitional housing for homeless
- Support homeless shelter development
These projects are a direct result of City Council prioritizing affordable housing and homelessness in our community.
Development of Programs:
Two programs have been developed in an effort to address homelessness in our community.
- Clean Sweep program - The City has partnered with a local organization, Rogue Retreat, to create the Clean Sweep Program which helps address downtown clean-up needs as well as provides meaningful work experience and volunteer opportunities for homeless individuals. Click here for more details about this program.
- Livability Team - City Council approved funding for the creation of a dedicated Livability Team which focuses on addressing livability issues such as homelessness and bullying behavior along the Bear Creek Greenway and downtown area. The team will also work to address neighborhood issues such as abandoned autos, accumulation of garbage, and repeated calls-for-service that lead to chronic nuisance properties. This program would add dedicated police and code enforcement personnel to the downtown area and Bear Creek Greenway. Click here for more details about this program.
Support of Social Services:
- City General Fund Grant Program – Over $510,000 from the City’s General Fund Grant program has been allocated to local non-profits providing essential safety net services, including efforts to reduce and prevent homelessness in our area.
- Continuum of Care – The City of Medford supports a region-wide commitment to the goal of addressing homelessness through a coordinated system known as the Continuum of Care or CoC. In November, Council approved $30,000 to fund a CoC Coordinator position. And our City Manager, Brian Sjothun served as the CoC Executive Committee Chair from January - December of 2018.
The CoC is a board made up of local non-profit organizations with a mission to address homelessness in the Rogue Valley.
Organizations working collaboratively will help eliminate the duplication of services and help increase impact on individuals seeking to end their homelessness cycle. Contrary to some public beliefs, this is the goal of the majority of homeless individuals we see and don't see on a daily basis.
- Our Parks and Recreation department collects up to 400 cubic yards of trash each month from public right-of-ways and parks. This monthly clean–up effort costs $4,000.
- Monthly Health and Safety Operations are conducted along the Bear Creek Greenway by Medford Police in partnership with Jackson County and local organizations. The purpose of these operations is to improve the safety, security, and cleanliness in the area and are used as a way to provide help to homeless individuals.
- As a result of the Health and Safety Operations, 50 homeless veterans are off the street and living in homes.
Housing and Shelter Availability:
- Neighborhood Stabilization Program – The City reserved over $700,000 in NSP 1 funds (passed down through the State/OHCS) to facilitate the acquisition and rehabilitation of three foreclosed properties. We are partnering with Habitat for Humanity to rehab the homes. Once complete, these homes will be sold to low-income families.
- Receivership Program – We successfully implemented a Receivership Program that is addressing blighted homes. Since January 2017, 42 properties have been identified as blighted (building/housing code violations). To date, 36 or 86% have come into full compliance.
The Receivership program has sparked partnerships with nonprofit and private developers through negotiations with owners of blighted homes interested in selling their property. To date, four properties have been purchased which will result in nine new homeowner units and three rental units.
We will continue to participate and lead, where necessary, in addressing these issues, which will take time and patience in order to strike a balance between a hand-up, hand-out, and enforcement approaches.
Community partnerships are key in this work and we are focused on collaborating with many organizations to address Medford's livability for everyone.
In the spring of 2018, the City had the opportunity to be a part of something special. The City of Medford, Hayden Homes, First Story and 24 local business partners came together to rebuild a local Vietnam Veteran’s condemned home. Here’s a look at the story.
Because of the generous support of our local businesses a man, who proudly served his country, was able to remain on his property where he has resided for 42 years. This project is a demonstration of our community’s collaborative philanthropy which resulted in helping Mr. Verschoor avoid homelessness.