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City may aid homeless program

A homeless food program that has partially moved from Hawthorne Park to an empty lot behind the Salvation Army store on Central Avenue may get an assist from the city of Medford.

At noon Thursday, Medford City Council will consider a request for about $25,000 to help improve the empty lot on Beatty Avenue for the homeless program.

“I want to hear from everyone before we make a decision,” Councilor Kevin Stine said.

If city councilors like the idea, they would direct city staff to identify where the money could be pulled from the budget.

Stine said he wants to hear from residents as well as the organizations that pass out food before council moves forward.

He said the city received a lot of complaints after some of the food programs moved from Hawthorne Park to Railroad Park, and he wants to make sure residents in the neighborhood of Beatty Street hear about the Salvation Army food program before council takes action to award the money.

If approved, the money would be used to build a 20-by-30-foot concrete pad where the meals would be served. A fence would be installed that could be locked when the meals are over. Portable toilets also would be brought in. The Medford Parks and Recreation Department estimated it could cost about $25,000 for the improvements.

On Sept. 18, 2014, council approved $900 to provide portable canopies, and the Salvation Army has already placed picnic tables on the property, which is located in a residential area.

Both the Salvation Army and Friends Helping Friends provide meals at the location seven days a week. They previously provided meals at Hawthorne Park.

The city closed off parts of Hawthorne Park last year for a $1.65 million makeover that is expected to be completed later this year.

The council hopes the improvements will help the park attract a more family-friendly crowd.

Hawthorne Park has had a seedy reputation and seen its share of vagrancy over the years — including stabbings, fights, dog attacks, public intoxication and public urination. Most of the issues in the park are drug-related, police said.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or dmann@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/reporterdm.