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‘One-stop shop’ eyed for homeless

Medford officials are scouting a location for a navigation center that would provide a one-stop shop to get homeless people off the street.

Under the city’s plan, the center would be open 24 hours a day and offer beds and restrooms.

The city received a $2.5 million state grant in April that provides much of the money to get the project rolling.

The center wouldn’t be operated by the city but by an organization that has at least two years experience with a shelter and have the ability to get it operational by July 1, 2022.

When a homeless person comes into the center, an assessment will be made and a case manager assigned. If necessary, the homeless person will receive addiction or mental health treatment.

City officials say an organization hasn’t been selected yet. But Rogue Retreat, the Medford Mission and St. Vincent de Paul all have experience running shelters.

Rogue Retreat currently operates the Kelly Shelter in downtown Medford, which has beds for more than 50 people.

According to a point-in-time count in 2020, there were 252 people in Jackson County who were homeless for at least 12 months or have experienced four episodes of homelessness over three years.

Described by the city as a “one-stop shop,” the center must have the ability to prepare meals on or off-site, provide storage, laundry facilities, and mental health and addiction counseling.

In addition, the center would offer recreational facilities for children and pets as well as a community justice court.

Currently, the homeless may have to go to several locations to deal with addiction, mental health or other problems, but the navigation center would offer these services under one roof.

City officials have a potential location for the navigation center in mind, but the location could be fraught with challenges, particularly from neighbors. The possible location hasn’t been disclosed yet.

Finding a place where neighbors won’t get upset about the idea isn’t easy.

Rogue Retreat wanted to create a new 12-unit tiny house community known as Heart Village on Eighth Street near West Main and Peach streets, but neighbor opposition forced the organization to look for another location.

Heart Village would have been next door to Addiction Recovery Center, and it would have provided housing for those seeking addiction treatment.

Rogue Retreat is looking for a new location that could accommodate more tiny houses than the original proposal.

Hope Village, another tiny house community, also faced similar opposition that scuttled two other proposed locations before settling on its current McAndrews Road location.

An urban campground near Biddle Road also encountered some opposition initially, but Medford police say the urban campground, as well as Hope Village and the Kelly Shelter, has had relatively few calls for service.

The city will be looking at other navigation centers throughout the country to provide a template for a similar facility in Medford

San Francisco opened its navigation center in 2015.

Since then, that city has seven navigation centers in operation to handle the approximately 8,000 people who experience homelessness on any given night. Reno, Nevada, also has created a navigation center.

After the Almeda fire last year, Medford saw a greater number of homeless people camping on or near the Bear Creek Greenway.

Medford passed an ordinance in April that bans camping on the greenway during the fire season.

As a result, homeless people have been looking for a place to pitch a tent and underscoring the need to open additional shelters.

Rich Hansen with St. Vincent de Paul said he thought Rogue Retreat was in a better position to operate the navigation center, pointing out that it doesn’t rely on volunteers like his organization.

Hansen said a navigation center would be another important development in tackling the increasing numbers of homeless in this community.

“I commend the people working on this and wish them luck,” he said. “We needed something like this yesterday.”

Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneHomeless people sit in the shade at the Railroad park in Medford.