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City working with agencies on homelessness

A recent editorial highlighted the work being done by ACCESS, Rogue Retreat and the Maslow Project through the Continuum of Care (CoC) board to address the need of providing a regional shelter.

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.

The city of Medford is profoundly aware of the issues that we’re facing in regards to the homeless population. Providing funding for a continuum of care position and actively working with other government agencies, local organizations such as the CoC and community members are a few examples of meaningful ways we’re currently working to address homelessness in our region.

The CoC is a board made up of local nonprofit organizations with a mission to address homelessness in the Rogue Valley. As CoC board chair, I have 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 our impact to 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.

Progress has been made since the establishment of the current CoC board in January. Our coordinated effort allows us to utilize resources more efficiently and effectively. This is a slow-moving process as we’re also working to identify potential shelter sites that are outside the downtown business core.

Two additional programs are in the works to address homelessness in our community. The first is 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, the Street Sweep program will be a partnership between the city and Rogue Retreat.

City staff also continue to work on funding solutions for a proposed Livability Team. This program would add dedicated police and code enforcement personnel to the downtown area and Bear Creek Greenway.

We will continue to participate and lead where necessary in addressing these issues, which will take time and patience to strike a balance between a hand-up, a 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.

Brian Sjothun is Medford’s city manager.