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'Hope Village' stalled

Supporters of a tiny-house project for the homeless say they are almost ready to build, but finding a location in Medford that doesn't raise hackles from neighbors has proven elusive.

"If the city doesn't come through, we'll have to buy some land," said Pastor Chad McComas with Rogue Retreat, a nonprofit dedicated to homeless issues.

McComas and other supporters were preparing to build Hope Village, with a dozen or more tiny houses, at a property at Third and Front streets until the project was stalled by opposition from neighboring businesses. The property is owned by the city of Medford, which discussed leasing the site to Rogue Retreat for $1 a year.

After receiving the complaints, the Medford City Council decided to look at more than 190 properties it owns in the city in hopes of finding a location that wouldn't generate opposition from neighbors.

Precision Electric, which has a business on Front Street, has offered to buy the property at Third and Front streets from the city.

"We weren't prepared for some of the vocal voices," McComas said.

Supporters of Hope Village say the Third and Front property would satisfy many of the needs of a homeless village, including being centrally located and close to services and bus lines. Rogue Retreat initially considered buying its own land for the project, but the Front Street property was offered.

Some locations, including one off 12th Street, have been ruled out because of likely opposition. Still other locations, including properties along Bear Creek owned by the city, have been discounted because they are in the floodplain.

"We're just waiting on the city to see if they will make up their mind," McComas said. "We think we have the money to build it this fall."

McComas said he's optimistic about receiving $175,000 in grants for Hope Village, and supporters have raised about $50,000, which includes a mobile kitchen donated by ACCESS Inc. He estimates it will require more than $200,000 to build Hope Village. However, it could cost an additional $200,000 or more to buy land for the project.

Rogue Retreat has proposed building 12 to 14 of the 80-square-foot tiny houses, along with a guard house, kennel, garden and community room.

Tenants would be required to abide by rules set by the community, such as no fighting, stealing or obnoxious behavior. All visitors would have to be accompanied by a resident and no drugs or alcohol would be allowed on the premises. Privacy slats would be installed in the chain-link fence already on the property.

Jack Schmidt, owner of Precision Electric, said he supports the tiny-house concept but doesn't think the lot at Third and Front is the right location.

"It's way too small," he said. Schmidt said the downtown is an inappropriate place for structures of this kind.

He said he has tried to purchase the lot but isn't sure whether that's going to work out with the city.

"We may turn our back on this and just ignore it," Schmidt said. "If it comes up for sale, then absolutely we would try and buy it."

Hope Village is the nonprofit's first attempt to create a tiny-house project to give homeless people an alternative to living on the streets. The tiny houses, which are 8-by-10 feet, wouldn’t have plumbing or electricity but would be built with materials commonly found in most home construction.

Rogue Retreat currently has 44 larger units available for the homeless, and partners with the Jackson County Housing Authority. Local organizations are looking for other solutions to reduce homelessness in the valley.

Heather Everett with Rogue Retreat said her organization hopes the Third and Front property will be chosen by the City Council.

"We're hoping to hear more about it Thursday," Everett said. The council is scheduled to consider the Third and Front property at its noon meeting at City Hall, 411 W. Eighth St., Medford. 

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

Chad McComas, executive director of Rogue Retreat, shows the inside of the portable kitchen that will serve Hope Village in Medford — when it can find a location. Mail Tribune / Jamie Lusch
A model 'tiny house' sits on display at Set Free Christian Fellowship on West Main Street in Medford. Mail Tribune/ Denise Baratta