By Kris Kuntz, Principal
At LDC, our work on homelessness has primarily been focused in California so when we had the opportunity to work outside of the Golden State, we welcomed the opportunity.
In January we began our work with the City of Medford, Oregon on a homeless system improvement plan that will outline key strategies that the City can adopt as part of a regional approach within Jackson County for their homeless Continuum of Care.
During our visit we had the opportunity to meet with key stakeholders and tour encampments. Stakeholders included the Mayor, City Council, County officials, members from the faith-based community, and business leaders. We toured a homeless encampment along the river with the Police Department, visited homeless services programs including the Medford Gospel Mission, an unaccompanied youth program, and a low-barrier winter shelter in the basement of a church. We also had the opportunity to see a Tiny Home village operated by Rogue Retreat that provides interim housing.
Although local stakeholders and efforts may look different than other West Coast communities, many of the challenges Medford faces are well known to both large and small cities throughout California, Oregon, and Washington: vacancy rates are low which impacts affordability especially to those at the low end of the income spectrum; unsheltered encampments are a significant concern to the general public, businesses, and elected officials; and most importantly, those experiencing homelessness are really struggling.
Our trip last month was mostly focused on listening and learning. It was exciting to see the multitude of sectors engaged in the issue and already brainstorming and offering up strategies and ideas to help solve a difficult problem. One thing is for sure, to address homelessness whether it is in Medford, Oregon, Portland, San Francisco, or Los Angeles, housing both in the form of thoughtful interim housing and more affordable and supportive housing is going to be needed. Strong partnerships across a community and a common vision that everyone can buy into is equally a part of a successful equation. We’ll keep you updated on our progress in the coming months.