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A home for the homeless?

A small, city-owned property at Third and Front streets is being eyed as a possible location for a small homeless village in Medford made up of 15 tiny houses.

“We could test the concept there, and it would be a little easier since we would only be leasing the lot,” said Pastor Chad McComas, executive director of Rogue Retreat, an organization devoted to homeless issues.

The nonprofit had considered purchasing a half-acre property in Medford for $260,000, plus investing another $150,000 into improving the property so that 15 of the 8-by-10-foot houses could be located on it.

By leasing the city-owned lot instead, McComas said, the group could save a lot of money, though owning a lot outright would give Rogue Retreat more control.

Medford Councilor Dick Gordon said the council seemed receptive to the idea of using the property at the corner of Third and Front streets for a pilot project to test how well a homeless village works in the city.

“The comments from the council seemed very favorable,” Gordon said. “From my standpoint, I hate to see a quarter-million (dollars) of improvements on a piece of property for a pilot project.”

He said the council will await a proposal from the backers of the homeless village to better understand the project and to determine whether it’s feasible to allow it on this lot.

The same one-third acre property was previously considered as a possible homeless feeding station when Hawthorne Park renovations were underway. However, the council received some negative reaction to that idea.

McComas said the village would mean fewer homeless people would be in the area compared with an area where meals are served. The village would be used only by the people occupying the 15 units, which wouldn’t have electricity or plumbing.

A central shower and portable restrooms would be brought in and a common established.

The tiny house concept is based on Opportunity Village in Eugene, which is situated on a lot in a commercial and light industrial area of that city.

McComas took a cursory look at the vacant lot this week, noting that it appeared to have electricity, a water meter at the street and a fire hydrant. Also, the lot, which is zoned commercial, is surrounded by a 6-foot chain link fence with barbed wire on the top. On the west side of the lot are trees, which would provide shade in the hot summer months, McComas said.

The property is surrounded by commercial businesses, Pacific Bible College and the William H. Moore Center Sobering Unit. It is one block off of North Central Avenue, immediately west of a used car dealership.

McComas said he would like to install privacy slats in the fence to provide a visual buffer for the benefit of both the people living in the village and for the surrounding properties.

“For a limited amount of money, we could be up and running,” McComas said.

Rogue Retreat has a model tiny house on display in the parking lot at Rogue Valley Mall. During the month of March, various members of the community have stayed overnight in the little house to raise awareness and encourage donations. McComas said more than $12,000 has been raised so far.

The sample tiny house has one room with three windows, a door, a loft and a small porch that would provide a safe place for the homeless to stay and store their belongings.

McComas said he serves a number of homeless people at his church, Set Free Christian Fellowship.

“We’ve got a bunch of homeless at our church, and they would love to get into a tiny house,” he said.

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

Chad McComas, executive director of Rogue Retreat, checks out an empty lot near downtown Medford that could be the future site of a homeless village. Mail Tribune / Jamie Lusch
A Hope Village house sits in the Rogue Valley Mall parking lot at the corner of Riverside and McAndrews. Mail Tribune / Denise Baratta