While many of us still shelter in place, it is easy to forget about the ones who may lack a place to shelter. However, today, the Medford Police Department (MPD) made sure many of the homeless in the area did not go unnoticed.
At 8:30 this morning, the Medford Police Department along with multiple agencies such as Access, Mercy Flights Outreach Team, and the Gospel Mission headed to the greenway to offer support and services to the homeless during these difficult times.
"We have about twenty-seven people with us today from several different organizations to include mental health, addiction recovery, as well as 8 officers and our livability team that are out making contact with people on the greenway," Sergeant Geoff Kirkpatrick, of the Medford Police Department, said.
Since the start of the pandemic in early March, the Medford Police Department has taken measures to ensure the safety of those camping on the greenway by going through the entire area to identify what services are needed.
"We've tried to identify people that are in need of services, who are open to services, and who are good candidates for services," Kirkpatrick said. "Then we try to plug those particular agencies in with those camps that need certain things. So, if someone needs addiction services, then we are going to take the addiction agency there as opposed to the gospel mission."
The agencies involved in the outreach mission today included the Jackson County Community Justice, Jackson County Mental Health, Access, VA Domiciliary Care, Mercy Flights Outreach Team, The Gospel Mission, and The Medford Parks Department.
"There are a lot of organizations out there that want to be apart of this, so there are going to be other days when we take other agencies because we want to make sure that they also have the opportunity to be apart of this mission during these trying times," he said.
According to Kirkpatrick, enforcement is what usually takes place on the greenway. However, due to the shelter in place guidelines, the need for outreach during this unprecedented time is more important than ever.
"Who knows when the shelter in place guidelines will be lifted. But for now, we want to spend a good amount of time doing outreach so that it's fair to the people living on the greenway as well as to the organizations so that they won't be overwhelmed in one day when the guidelines are lifted and the people are no longer allowed to be on the greenway," he said.
While there is a need for both advocacy and enforcement on the greenway, the Medford Police Department determines the best approach for the homeless encampments based on the present circumstances.
"Right now, it's that sliding scale. So, it might be time for more outreach and then that scale may shift at some point in time. But for now, it's imperative that we give back on the front end," Kirkpatrick said.
Although MPD does not have a set date of when they will have another outreach, Kirkpatrick said they will continue to offer support to the homeless until restrictions are lifted.