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Council greenlights Hope Village

The Medford City Council voted unanimously Thursday evening to allow a nonprofit organization to use a parcel of city-owned property in west Medford as a transitional living homeless village.

After 15 months of effort and multiple proposals, councilors approved nonprofit Rogue Retreat's Hope Village request, authorizing the organization to use a plot of land to hold a handful of insulated, shed-like 8-foot-by-10-foot living spaces that will provide shelter for at least 14 homeless people involved in Rogue Retreat programs. 

Rogue Retreat executive director Chad McComas said he hopes to house the first selected homeless individuals by mid-January. The organization had raised more than $93,000 and has more than $105,000 pledged from other agencies toward their goal of providing safe, sanitary shelter for homeless individuals under Rogue Retreat's supervision who will live on a parcel at 821 N. Columbus Ave., near the intersection with McAndrews Road.

McComas said his organization currently has 44 apartments transitioning people out of homelessness.

"We've already been doing this," McComas said. "It's not like it's just a dream of ours."

The council, which was short two members for the meeting, approved two measures related to the project, one designating up to two city-owned properties as campgrounds intended for transitional living, and another authorizing the city to iron out a contract with Rogue Retreat for the Hope Village project. 

Each Hope Village resident will be responsible for half of an insulated shed-sized “tiny house,” and the property will be gated. Homeless residents in the village will be required to comply with rules set by the community.

The city modeled its agreement with Hope Village on a contract devised by the city of Eugene, which has a similar homeless village, according to Medford city attorney Lori Cooper. The agreement allows the city to relocate the project with 45 days notice, and gives the city manager authority to terminate the agreement.

Councilor Kevin Stine, among the chief proponents of the project, commended councilors Daniel Bunn and Michael Zarosinski for seeking out a workable location and solutions to their earlier objections.

Bunn said the location near Columbus Avenue and West McAndrews Road has more oversight for the pilot program, making it a good initial location.

Some, such as nearby resident John Michaels, spoke against Hope Village, saying there was "no real plan," and the city should seek out more comprehensive solutions.

"This is sort of a ready-fire-aim solution," Michaels said.

A previous proposal attempted to built the tiny house village at the corner of Third and Front streets near downtown Medford, but opposition from neighboring businesses stalled the project.

McComas said his organization welcomes volunteers and donations for the construction phase. Anyone interested in helping should visit www.rogueretreat.org.

— Reach reporter Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or nmorgan@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter at @MTCrimeBeat.