A tiny house village for the homeless is almost invisible in west Medford, and supporters say they want to keep it that way even though they propose to double its size.
“Most people don’t know what’s going on here when they drive by,” said Chad McComas, executive director of Rogue Retreat, which spearheaded efforts to found Hope Village.
McComas and other homeless advocates plan to ask the Medford City Council soon to allow them to place an additional 16 tiny houses on the property leased from the city at the corner of McAndrews and Columbus. Hope Village opened in October with 14 tiny houses, each only 8 by 10 feet in size.
The proposal is to place the 16 new tiny houses between existing units on the property, so it wouldn’t increase the size of the area being used.
Without electricity or running water, the units, which are actually tiny duplexes, are designed to provide emergency housing for the homeless and are warmer and safer than sleeping on the streets.
“This is a hand up, not a hand out,” McComas said. “We don’t want them here for the next 10 years.”
Residents 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.
“It costs about $20 a night to keep someone here,” McComas said.
The complex of tiny houses, a shower area and a community building cost a total of $350,000 to install, and McComas said he received a bid recently for $8,500 per unit for the new structures.
McComas likes to say Hope Village is a gated community because residents and any guests have to check in and out at the front gate. Residents are also required to do chores to keep the properly maintained. Two case manager offices are in the community room and help residents with health care, finding a job or finding a more permanent place to live.
At a recent City Council meeting, some councilors expressed concern about having more than 40 people living in a tiny house village.
McComas said that his organization would support a 40-person limit. Currently 17 people live in the 14 tiny houses, which are mostly occupied by single people. Every Friday, the tiny houses receive an inspection to make sure residents maintain them properly.
Some of the residents who have lived in Hope Village have already moved into more permanent housing. Rogue Retreat has small apartments in the city as well. Some of the residents are on a list to get subsidized housing through the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development.
McComas said Hope Village along with the Kelly Shelter, which provided a place to sleep for 50 people during the winter, have cut down on the amount of illegal camping in the city.
“The people here are not costing the city money,” he said.
McComas said that if the city approves the expansion plan, he wouldn’t ask for any more units at Hope Village.
Medford police Deputy Chief Scott Clauson said officers have responded to very few calls for service at Hope Village. The Kelly Shelter, located on Main Street, also generated relatively few calls for service this year.
Officers responded to one call for service at Hope Village in November 2017 and three calls in both February and March, for a total of seven calls since the site opened.
“Those are not alarming statistics at all,” Clauson said. The calls were for complaints about non-violent issues such as a report of a theft or a trespass.
He said his department sees more calls for service at food pantries and other locations that provide services for the homeless.
“I would rather see those type of organizations that take fairly low-risk individuals and get them into low-income housing,” Clauson said.
Chris Glenn, a 42-year-old who has lived at Hope Village since it opened, said he hopes to find a job and is also on a list to get HUD housing. He’s currently working part-time at Set Free Fellowship on Main Street, where McComas is pastor and where the homeless receive clothing, showers and meals.
For three years, Glenn lived on the streets and received five or six illegal camping tickets.
“One thing I got tired of was being hassled by the cops,” he said.
Edward Trujillo, a 52-year-old resident of Hope Village, said he was a plumber in Las Vegas, but can no longer do that work due to damaged knees.
He said Hope Village has helped him get back on his feet, and he realizes he can only stay in his tiny house for a little while longer.
“Within the next month, I’ll be moving on,” Trujillo said.