The Medford City Council Thursday night unanimously approved doubling the size of a tiny-house project for the homeless in West Medford.
The council agreed to a new two-year agreement with Rogue Retreat, an organization that opened Hope Village last year. Previously, the village, run by Rogue Retreat, operated under a one-year agreement.
“In visiting Hope Village, they have by far exceeded my expectations about what they’ve accomplished,” Councilor Tim D’Alessandro said. “I have no doubt they will succeed in maintaining 16 more cottages.”
Currently, hope village has 14 8-foot by 10-foot shed-like structures on a property located at the corner of McAndrews Road and Columbus Avenue.
“Hope Village has given us what we needed, and that is hope,” said Edward Trujillo, who lives with his wife in one of the units, which has no running water, heat or electricity.
Trujillo said Rogue Retreat has worked closely with him to help show him the way to become a productive member of the community again.
He said the organization made him aware that he had barriers that held him back.
“I’ve gotten rid of those barriers,” he said.
It was not easy for Rogue Retreat to find a location for Hope Village. A proposal to locate it near the downtown area met with protests from neighboring businesses worried that it would lead to an increase in crime.
Since Hope Village opened last November it had only seven calls for service from police through May, an amount police officials say is low.
Residents of Hope Village are required to pay a $60 fee each month for their unit. They are required to provide their own food and prepare their own meals in a separate kitchen area. Many of the residents qualify for government assistance to help pay their food costs.
Rogue Retreat receives money from community care organizations to help support the Hope Village operation, which costs about $20 a night for each resident.
Another Hope Village resident, Denise Sanchez, said she was a hospice nurse who ended up losing her job after a life event that left her with post-traumatic stress disorder that caused her to lose her home.
“Once you become homeless, it is very hard to get back into a house,” she said.
She said a place to live gives her a place where she can work on getting the therapy she needs.
“I want to be a productive human being in this community,” she said.
Councilor Kim Wallan said Hope Village has exceeded her wildest expectations, but she worried the project could violate state law, which she said allows only two tax lots in a city to be designated as urban campgrounds.
“We’re arguably in violation of state laws,” she said.
Kelly Madding, deputy city manager, said the law actually refers to parcels, not tax lots.
“I’d agree we’re at the two parcels, but I wouldn’t agree that we’ve exceeded that.”
Councilor Tim Jackle said he supported Hope Village, pointing out that the city has given various variances to allow the project to continue, including not requiring the parking lot be paved.
“There’s a lot of variances going on in Hope Village for good reasons,” he said.
Councilor Kay Brooks said she was homeless 10 years ago, and she thought a program such as Hope Village would have helped people like her get back on their feet.
“I think hope is something Medford really needs,” she said.
Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on www.twitter.com/reporterdm.