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Community members gather to ‘Stop the Sweeps’

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Community members drove around downtown Medford Wednesday in an effort to convince the city to refrain from displacing homeless residents.

The city of Medford passed an ordinance in April that bans tent camping on the Bear Creek Greenway during fire season. Despite triple-digit heat hitting Southern Oregon this past week, Medford police have continued to enforce the ban.

“Normal daily routines like making sure my space is cleaned up — those simple little things are very difficult in this kind of heat, so to be overly stressed and going I’m going to lose this, I’m going to lose that. I can’t imagine,” said Travis “T-Bone” Greiner.

Greiner has been residing along the Greenway for nearly two years after coming to Southern Oregon to care for his mother. He says he has witnessed many of his neighbors and friends become displaced after the sweeps.

“Last Thursday they did a sweep and they made entire families pack up their belongings and they only had a matter of a couple hours. Anything that’s left, they bulldoze it,” says Greiner.

With low-income housing options already stretched thin in Jackson County, some homeless residents choose the Greenway for temporary shelter.

After seeing several sweeps occur, community members gathered at Central Medford High School Wednesday to decorate their cars with “Stop the Sweep” signs before driving along Ivy Street in downtown Medford past the Medford police station and City Hall.

A box truck led cars around the block several times honking their horns before one of the rally members was pulled over by a Medford police officer.

The woman driving the vehicle received a ticket for the violation of use limits on sound equipment and another for failing to carry proof of liability insurance. The tickets totaled $430.

The rally ended with activists meeting at Hawthorne Park, where many of Medford’s homeless residents spend time during the day and receive services.

A 24-hour resource tent sits in the park to provide cold water, snacks and sanitary supplies that many homeless residents rely on.

Logan Vanderkooi, who has lived at several shelters and and on the Greenways, said these sweeps have made life extremely difficult and have taken what little homeless residents have, such as a tent.

“They’re taking the last of what we have, and that’s just wrong,” Vanderkooi said.

Activists at the rally said they hope to see more access to shelters and services that don’t require police presence.

“A lot of our neighbors on the street are not comfortable with that because of previous trauma with police and encounters they’ve had that make them really uncomfortable interacting with police or services that cooperate closely with the police,” said rally member Sam Powell.

Savannah Blake/Mail Tribune - Community member Sam Powell makes a sign to use during the "Stop the Sweep" rally on Wednesday afternoon.
Savannah Blake/Mail Tribune - A box truck leads a pack of cars for the "Stop the Sweep" rally to ask the City of Medford to refrain from displacing houseless residents living outside.
Savannah Blake/Mail Tribune - After pulling over a rally member for honking her horn, a Medford Police Officer writes a ticket for violating the use limits on sound equipment.
Savannah Blake/Mail Tribune - After the rally, Christine-Marie Caligiuri hangs out in Hawthorne park with some houseless residents.