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Homeless feeding questioned

Just a question out of curiosity: Is the city of Medford considering allowing the homeless to have the run of Railroad Park during the winter months, or are they only proposing feeding the homeless in the picnic area located outside of the actual park? I was unclear on that point after reading a recent article. 

— Didi T., Medford

The issue of feeding the homeless in local parks has touched a nerve with a lot of Medford residents, Didi. It’s also an issue with which many communities around the country have wrestled. Ashland, for instance, has its share of homeless people who frequent Lithia Park and the downtown.

As to your question, a fenced-off portion of Railroad Park is closed during the winter months except for special events held by organizations that maintain the railroad exhibits.

“It’s never been part of the proposal to feed them inside the fence,” said Brian Sjothun, director of Medford Parks and Recreation, adding that at least one organization a day hands out food outside the fence.

Sjothun said it has never been the city’s intention to direct local organizations to offer free food to the homeless at Railroad Park or at the Almond Street parking lot.

However, the city has offered to issue a permit to an organization that wanted an exclusive right to offer food to the homeless at Railroad Park or the parking lot, but none of the organizations have sought a permit so far. Because of civil rights issues, the city can’t require an organization to obtain a permit to distribute free food.

Sjothun said certain sections of Hawthorne Park would remain open while the city undergoes a $1.65 million transformation of 13-acre patch of green near the downtown and Bear Creek. As a result, it could be possible that the portions of Hawthorne Park that remain open would allow organizations to continue providing food to the homeless.

Send questions to “Since You Asked,” Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@mailtribune.com. We’re sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.