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Chris Glen, a resident of Hope Village, knits a Compassion Hat Tuesday at the tiny house community in west Medford. [Mail Tribune / Jamie Lusch]

A 'happy surprise' for police

Owing to a culture of accountability and community, Hope Village is so far proving to be anything but a hassle for police.

In the two months since Rogue Retreat opened its tiny-house community, Medford police were called once — the first week it was open — and haven't been back since. Hope Village resident Eddie Trujillo, one of three residents on a three-resident Hope Village Council focused on mediating issues between peers, said the one call wasn't necessary.

"They shouldn't have even been called," Trujillo said. "It was a verbal argument."

That call, Nov. 5, involved a report of a disorderly man, according to Medford police Lt. Justin Ivens. Rogue Retreat staff quickly resolved the issue, and police turned around. No arrest was made.

Cathy Marcoux, a case manager at Hope Village, said the incident stemmed in part from friction between residents who didn't know each other in the first week.

“People had to be confined with each other. Tthey didn’t know each other,” Marcoux said.

Even by the standard of a conventional apartment complex, Ivens said, a track record of one complaint in two months would be "pretty good."

"Hope Village has been a happy surprise, to be honest," Ivens said.

Inside the fences at 728 W. McAndrews Road, Marcoux said she's been impressed by the pride residents are taking in their homes and the progress many residents are making in their lives. During inspections last Friday of the seven duplex units, Marcoux said she's noticed pictures hanging on the walls, and all 14 living spaces were kept tidy.

“They may not be ready for housing, but they’ve come a long way,” Marcoux said.

Sitting in Hope Village's community room, resident Chris Glen had apparently lost some weight, groomed his beard and no longer slouched his shoulders in the two months since he lived on the street. Trujillo said he's noticed a difference.

"He's got a whole new look about him," Trujillo said.

Glen had recently begun knitting "Compassion Hats," a project making caps for homeless people and infants started by fellow Hope Village resident Trinidad Flores. Glen was on his second cap.

"It helps me pass the time," Glen said.

Another resident had made more progress, finding full-time employment and his own apartment, according to Marcoux.

That tenant's upward mobility was good news for Steve Perry, who moved in Tuesday. A one-time homeowner with no criminal record, Perry said that just a couple of years ago he would never have expected to find himself in the dire straits he was in last weekend.

"I've never been in this position, not even close," Perry said.

Since completing rehab in December for a drinking problem, Perry had been living in his pickup — and motel rooms when he had the money. Last weekend, he reached the end of his rope, with no gas and no money, when a friend connected him with Rogue Retreat.

His unit is small and, like the other living spaces, lacks electricity, but having an address means Perry can look for work and rebuild.

The optimistic beginnings don't always pan out. Three residents so far have been asked to leave, according to Marcoux, who said the greater issue was learning to live with the 18 others at the homeless project, abiding by rules and following a routine.

When a resident isn't abiding by the rules, it's up to the whole village to decide how to handle them, Trujillo said. It begins with an open discussion outlining terms and conditions for the resident to stay, such as requirements to go to anger management or a 12-step group.

"Before we ask anybody to leave, we try every other option," Trujillo said.

Residents voted out could have an opportunity to come back later if they address specified behavior problems, according to Marcoux, who said some "just aren't ready yet."

At regular group meetings and through one-on-one interactions, case managers help residents shift their thinking from survival toward community living. The initiatives, plus the Hope Village Council, are starting to hit their stride after what Marcoux described as an "intense" first month.

Marcoux said that she and men's case manager Charlie Hale have seen a drop in calls that require them to step in. In fact, she's had none in three weeks.

Trujillo remembers each meeting starting with 15 or so neighbor issues at the beginning, but two days before the Village Council's last weekly meeting, the slate was blank.

"I think it was just the want — of everybody wanting a house and a family," Trujillo said. "Now everybody's able to open up more."

— Reach reporter Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or nmorgan@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter at @MTCrimeBeat.

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