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Homeless food proposal is best solution yet

The Medford City Council made the right call last week when councilors agreed to pursue a plan to feed the homeless next to the Salvation Army thrift store on North Central Avenue. With sufficient conditions to address neighbors' concerns, the plan appears to be a solution the city has been seeking for several months.

Food distribution was taking place in Hawthorne Park until the park closed for extensive renovations. But that location had drawbacks. The city's goal for the park improvements is to make Hawthorne more family-friendly, and the presence of large numbers of transients certainly makes that a tougher sell.

When the park closed last summer for the year-long renovation work, city parks officials struggled to find another location where volunteers could set up a feeding program. Every possible site had problems and generated opposition.

This latest proposal from the Salvation Army is still not a "perfect" location — something that does not exist — but it offers the best situation yet.

Under the proposal embraced by the council on Thursday, the city would provide $25,000 in funding, which would pay to construct a concrete pad on a vacant lot behind the thrift store. The lot would be fenced, and the only access would be through the thrift store's parking lot on Central Avenue.

That should prevent people from entering the site from Beatty Street, to the rear of the property. Residents along Beatty have expressed concern about people walking down their street to reach the site.

Another advantage to this site is the Salvation Army organization itself, which is as experienced as anyone in serving the homeless. The Army also says it will welcome other organizations to use the site as long as they are committed to the work.

The problem of homelessness does not lend itself to easy solutions. There will always be pros and cons. But this proposal appears to minimize problems, and even an imperfect plan is preferable to doing nothing.