Colorful tents are pitched in a grassy city park. In the background, a flag reads "Black Lives Matter," next to a rainbow pride flag.

Medford's Hawthorne Park got a new tent city when fire chased homeless people away from the Bear Creek bottomlands.

Abby Kraft / JPR

Medford has proposed an ordinance that would tighten the city’s camping restrictions. Homeless advocates are advising the city to reject the proposal.

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The National Homelessness Law Center and the Civil Liberties Defense Center both wrote to the city of Medford last week, advising its leaders to not pass a proposed ordinance to change camping laws. The groups said the new regulations would further criminalize homelessness and penalize people left without homes from wildfires.

Eric Mitton, the city attorney for, Medford, said his office is working to balance the needs of houseless people and keeping public space usable.

“What we’re trying to do is walk a line of balancing multiple competing important interests,” Mitton said. “We are trying to find a path where we do respect all of those competing issues and come up with a solution that we feel is both practical and lawfully defensible.”

If the ordinance passed, it would ban people from setting up tents in Medford, including along the Bear Creek Greenway where hundreds of people presently live. It would also prohibit people from sleeping or lying in public space for more than 24 hours. Violating these ordinances would result in criminal misdemeanor.

The city responded to the letters of criticism, maintaining that it’s lawful to regulate the time, location, and manner of sleeping or resting in a public space.

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