A 30-yard dumpster was filled to capacity Thursday during the Medford Police Department's monthly sweep of transient camping sites, and Medford police Cpl. Randy Jewell anticipates crews will have a similar load next month.
"We're filling that dumpster to capacity every time," Jewell said. "It's definitely a constant process for us."
The department's monthly sweep starts just after midnight the first Thursday of every month, when four officers target Medford parks and bike paths within city limits in the wee hours of the morning. After issuing warnings in the days prior, the sweep yielded eight arrests and numerous misdemeanor citations.
On Thursday morning, work crews emptied a pickup packed with cardboard, food containers, clothing and other debris used by transients along the Highway 62 overpass near the Red Lobster. Another trailer carried additional detritus, including two shopping carts.
Crews through Jackson County Community Justice targeted seven sites Thursday along the Bear Creek Greenway, Jewell said.
Medford police said that about 100 of the Medford Center Safeway's 250 carts are missing because homeless people use them to carry their belongings. A Safeway store manager who asked not to be named said the store orders about 400 carts a year in two or three orders.
Many carts still in usable condition need to be deep cleaned and sanitized before they can be used in a store, according to a police tech assisting Jewell. One of the carts police cleared from the bike path was beyond repair because it had been used as a barbecue grill.
Police found bank correspondence and repair receipts beneath a bridge near the Hilton Garden Inn, leading police to believe the two suspects camping at the site had been breaking into cars, according to Jewell.
Shoes, clothes and food cans were scattered at the sites along Bear Creek, according to Jewell. He noted the regular cleanups are important during the winter because the debris can be carried downstream if the water rises high enough.
Mike Whitfield with Rogue Valley Veterans & Community Outreach said he has accompanied Medford police on the sweeps for five years, seeking out veterans who could be assisted by his organization and the Department of Veterans Affairs.
"They have a very compassionate team of officers," Whitfield said. "They're trying to help."
If a veteran doesn't have any outstanding warrants, Medford police back away and let Whitfield step in. Jewell said the goal with the sweeps isn't to merely displace people from their unauthorized sites.
"We're trying to get people into services," Jewell said.
"If you don't help them, they're right back where they were," Whitfield said.
The nonprofit organization has 40 beds offering transitional housing for homeless veterans, offering help with mental health, medical, legal and addiction resources.
"We do a collaborative individual recovery program," Whitfield said.
Between 100 and 150 people have moved out of homelessness through the program, Whitfield said, including himself.
"Back nine years ago, I was a homeless veteran," Whitfield said.
It took Whitfield 20 months in the transitional living facility to overcome his drug and alcohol program, but he said the program isn't one-size-fits-all. Instead, a case manager with the agency checks in weekly to ensure the veteran's needs are being met.
— Reach reporter Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @MTCrimeBeat.