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.
Here are some of the ways we're currently working to address homelessness in our region:
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 became the CoC Executive Committee Chair in January 2018.
The CoC is a board made up of local non-profit organizations with a mission to address homelessness in the Rogue Valley. City Manager Brian Sjothun became the CoC Executive Committee Chair in January 2018 and has requested that all participating groups begin to work collaboratively when developing homeless assistance programs and services.
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.
- 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.
Clean Up Efforts:
- 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.
Development of Programs:
Two programs are in the works to address homelessness in our community.
- Clean Sweep program - A downtown clean-up program that would provide volunteer and job opportunities for homeless individuals. Modeled after other programs in Washington D.C. and Fort Worth, Texas, this program will be a partnership between the City and Rogue Retreat.
- Livability Team - This program would add dedicated police and code enforcement personnel to the downtown area and Bear Creek Greenway.
The team would focus on current areas of concern and have the flexibility to adapt to new areas of concern:
- Greenway and Parks
- Assist Code Enforcement on blight complaints
- Work with Continuum of Care Coordinator to refer individuals to programs
- An added benefit would be an anticipated offset to Patrol Calls for Service
- Types of crimes the team would help address: drinking in public, disorderly conduct, criminal mischief, occupied RV’s, accumulation of junk, stored vehicles in the right-of-way.
City staff continues to work on finding funding solutions for the proposed team. We will provide updates on this effort on this as they become available.
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.
Earlier this year we 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.