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Greenway Recovery Project

Is this the Medford you want to live in?

Compassion and Accountability

"Compassion" is a term frequently thrown around in conversations about the alarming wave of homelessness sweeping the West coast.  Medford has seen an especially massive influx of new homeless residents due in part to the widely publicized resources made available after the Almeda fire and the passage of Measure 110 which decriminalized drug possession and use.  The result has been a growing sea of tents, tarps, cardboard, trash, bio-hazards, needles, and paraphernalia in our green spaces; vandalism and crime in our neighborhoods; an extraordinary number of wildland fires in the middle of town; and a growing sense of fear, anger, and powerlessness among Medford's tax-paying residents.


It should be noted that just because a person is living unhoused does not mean he/she/they should be vilified.  There are plenty of people who have experienced homelessness who worked hard to get clean, take responsibility for their lives and their choices, take advantage of the resources available to them, and change their situation for the better.  Compassion absolutely played a role in these cases but success ultimately rested in the hands of the once-homeless person.

I absolutely support having -  and being moved to act by - compassion for those who don’t have homes.  Compassion appropriately placed is  a tenet of a well-functioning society and is critically important to solving the homeless crisis.


There is a point, however, beyond which offering compassion without also demanding accountability perpetuates the problem.  When those who have no desire to change their situation, get sober, develop skills to get off the streets, or stop engaging in behaviors that negatively affect the community ask us simply to be compassionate, they are asking us to validate their choices and support their conduct.  There are groups who proclaim that being compassionate includes letting the homeless do what they want, whenever, and wherever they choose… simply because they are homeless. 



When compassion is offered along with legitimate resources to people who express a willingness to change their behavior, it is of exponential value to a community.  When compassion and resources are offered to people who have no desire to change their behavior, it is a green light to continue making poor choices.  When those choices affect thousands more people as well as the greater environment - as do the trash and human waste along the Greenway,  defaced public property, fires, abused wildlife, and crime in our neighborhoods- there has to be a consequence for those whose choice is not to change.

For a few years now, Medford has fielded the Medford Police Livability Team whose sole focus is bettering the lives of the transient population and minimizing the negative impact many members of that population have on the greater community.  The team is on the Greenway and elsewhere, checking on the well-being of the transient population, enforcing laws, offering help and resources, as well as documenting camp locations and census counts.

In the entire time that the Livability Team has been active, only a small percentage of those contacted have elected to accept help, housing, or resources.  The vast majority have CHOSEN to continue violating the law, contaminating our green spaces, defiling our waterways, igniting fires in an area proven to be an extreme fire risk, and trolling neighborhoods in search of items to steal.  These are not the actions of people who care about our city or who respect our community or rules.   If I, as a Medford homeowner, engaged in these activities in my own front yard, I would be held accountable.  Why are we not requiring the same accountability from those living on public land?

I support resources and compassion for those who wish to change their behavior, and accountability and consequences for those whose choice is to continue abusing our city and residents.   Medford can not afford to follow Portland, Seattle, and San Francisco down the path of decay in the name of compassion.  

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