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Hope Village supporters get new hope

Almost 100 supporters of a tiny house project for the homeless received some hope Thursday when the Medford City Council agreed to look at another property for the controversial project.

The council is looking at locating the tiny house community, known as Hope Village, on a city-owned service yard at 821 N. Columbus Ave., at McAndrews Road.

"We have to do something," Medford resident William Manning said. "The weather will change, and people will suffer."

The council had considered using a property on Third and Front streets for 14 tiny houses but backed away after surrounding business owners mounted opposition.

"Third and Front streets are a bridge too far," Councilor Daniel Bunn said.

Bunn and Councilor Mike Zarosinski worked on a compromise solution to look at the service center property and to change Medford's code in order to create a process to address these sorts of proposals in the future.

The council also will look at selling the Third and Front property and potentially using the proceeds to help prepare the service center lot for Hope Village. Precision Electric has offered to buy the Third and Front property, and the council planned to discuss the proposal during an executive session Thursday night.

Rogue Retreat, a nonprofit dedicated to homeless issues, was preparing to build Hope Village, with a dozen or more tiny houses, at Third and Front.

After receiving complaints, the 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.

At the noon council meeting, local agencies that deal with the homeless threw their support behind the concept of a tiny house village. Rogue Retreat has raised $72,000 for the project so far.

Heidi Hill with Jackson Care Connect, which provides a broad range of health services to local residents, said one of her homeless clients last year needed $43,000 in medical treatment. The client moved into housing, and there were no more health care costs for six months, she said.

Hill said current efforts to deal with homelessness haven't worked.

"Greenway sweeps only displace the homeless," she said.

Many audience members Thursday wore "Yes to Hope" stickers on their shirts to show their support for the proposed village.

"It's really hard to live on the streets and get arrested by the police," said Jacque Martinez, who identified herself as a homeless person. "You are honesty trying to survive."

Heritage Motors owner Steve Curry, who previously objected to placing the tiny houses next to his business, spoke immediately after Martinez.

"I care for the young lady who just spoke," he said.

Curry said his family has donated about $400,000 over the years to various local charities.

"I, too, am in support of Hope Village," he said. "We are seeking a solution that is going to be the correct one."

Kenard Barral, a former homeless person, said housing makes a big difference in the lives of the homeless and helps them on the path to recovery.

"This would give the homeless a chance," he said.

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