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Homeless campground could double

Rogue Retreat’s urban campground offers tents and tiny houses as temporary shelters. Mail Tribune file photo

An urban campground for homeless people in Medford could soon double in size, creating one of the largest authorized campsites of its kind in Oregon.

On Thursday, Medford City Council will consider increasing the number of spaces at the campground from about 70 to almost 150.

Rogue Retreat, a nonprofit homeless advocacy organization, has worked out an agreement to enlarge the campground onto an old livestock facility off Biddle Road.

The current campsite is located closer to Midway Road, just to the north of Crater Lake Ford.

By expanding to the livestock facility, Rogue Retreat would be able to offer electricity to some of the campsites.

Currently the campsites are either tents or tiny houses from a Washington-based company known as Pallet. At the existing campground, there are 25 tiny houses, and the remaining campsites have tents.

If approved by the council, Rogue Retreat expects to open the expanded area by summer.

“Considering the site preparation, it should take about two months,” said Matt Vorderstrasse, program director for Rogue Retreat.

The livestock facility has lots of concrete areas that would make it easier to set up camp sites, and there is already power available on that portion of the property, Vorderstrasse said.

There are at least two people on site 24 hours a day to monitor and keep the campground secure.

A night-watch manager at the campground has some medical training as well as fire-suppression training.

Vorderstrasse said he anticipates the expanded campground would need at least three people overseeing the facility.

The existing campground costs about $40,000 a month to operate, or roughly $24 for each person at the facility, which includes meals.

Vorderstrasse said the expanded campground would likely cost around $60,000 to $70,000 to operate, which would require more local support.

“That’s one of the questions we’ve been asking about the campground,” Vorderstrasse said. “Where do you find the sustainable revenue for it? Right now, we’re keeping it going on a month-by-month basis almost.”

Rogue Retreat created the campground as an alternative to camping on the Bear Creek Greenway. The council recently banned any type of camping on the Greenway from May 1 to Sept. 30, but the ordinance has already been met with the threat of a lawsuit.

With the ban in place, the demand for spaces at the campground is expected to increase.

Rogue Retreat houses 320 homeless people on an average night at the Kelly Shelter, Hope Village, the urban campground and other facilities.

To donate to Rogue Retreat, push on the donate button at rogueretreat.com.

The expanded urban campground would house about 200 people on any given night.

Tim D’Alessandro, Medford City Council president, said he’s been to the urban campground on several occasions and found it to be a really well organized operation.

He said he thinks there will be little if any opposition from the council to doubling its size.

“I think based on our experience with Hope Village and Rogue Retreat that they have a pretty good track record,” D’Alessandro said.

The council has been actively pursuing many different ways of dealing with homelessness, he said.

Recently the Medford Urban Renewal Agency approved a $450,000 grant to help convert a hotel into housing for Almeda fire survivors and homeless people.

Rogue Retreat bought The Redwood Inn, at 722 N. Riverside Ave., using a $2.35 million Project Turnkey grant and has started converting it into 47 suites with kitchens.

D’Alessandro said the city has put considerable effort into dealing with the homeless crisis.

“We have a responsibility as a city, but this is a regional problem, not just a Medford problem,” he said.

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