The gazebo at Alba Park in downtown Medford has been used by the homeless as a shelter and sleep area. Advocates say expanding the exclusion zone will keep some homeless people from getting the services they need. [Mail Tribune / file photo]

Exclusion zone may get wider

Medford's new law banning scofflaws from downtown seems to have pushed the problem elsewhere.

Jackson County Administrator Danny Jordan sent a letter to the city Sept. 27 describing nuisance problems at county buildings, including public drunkenness, graffiti, failure to control dangerous dogs, public urination, harassment and menacing.

"When an individual engages in harassing behavior, public urination or other criminal activity at a public building, other members of the public may feel intimidated and unwilling to access the services we provide at these facilities, not to mention the health hazards the public urination and other activities pose," Jordan wrote.

He asked the city to include the Jackson County Courthouse, Justice Building, Juvenile Justice facility and District Attorney's Office in the exclusion zone. In addition, he asked that adjacent parking lots to these buildings be included.

The Medford City Council on Thursday will consider expanding its exclusion zone, approved in April, to include the county buildings to the west.

Heather Everett, of Rogue Retreat, said the Kelly Warming Shelter, located in the basement of First United Methodist Church on West Main Street, is situated in the proposed expanded exclusion zone.

"It would definitely be a barrier if the exclusion zone includes the shelter," she said.

The entrance to the shelter is on Mistletoe Street, the westernmost boundary of the proposed expansion, which would extend to Bear Creek and would be bounded by Sixth and 10th streets. Under the new boundary, the zone also would include 11th Street to the south, bounded by King Street to the east and Orange Street to the west.

Everett said 50 people have been selected to stay in the shelter during the winter, and they are not checked to determine whether they have been excluded from the downtown.

Everett said she doesn't support the exclusion zone, saying she thinks it targets homeless people and makes it more difficult for them to seek the services they need in the downtown area.

"Whether there is an exclusion zone or not, why not just call the police in and take care of it?" she said.

When the city renovated Hawthorne Park in 2015, homeless people who hung out there appeared to move to the downtown, though city officials have pointed out the exclusion zone is not meant to target homeless people, just bad behavior.

Councilor Dick Gordon said he was surprised the proposed exclusion zone expansion includes the warming shelter, saying he didn't expect the boundaries to extend to Mistletoe, rather than to just Laurel Street to the east.

"I didn't know it would go over that extra block," he said.

The exclusion zone bars certain individuals from the downtown, or a city park, for a period of 90 days. However, an excluded individual can enter the exclusion zone for medical or social services, employment, religious services, public meetings and court hearings.

Councilor Mike Zarosinski said the ordinance would allow those being banned from the downtown to use the warming shelter, while not being able to loiter when the shelter is closed.

He said he supports the expansion of the exclusion zone.

“There’s some aggressive behavior that we’re trying to wrap our arms around,” he said.

— Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or Follow him on

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