Federal lawsuit accuses Medford of policies that ‘criminalize the existence of homeless people’

MEDFORD, Ore. – The City of Medford is facing a class action lawsuit filed in federal court accusing officials of establishing a “web of ordinances, customs, guidelines and practices” that effectively criminalize homelessness in the city.

The class action lawsuit comes from Medford attorneys Justin Rosas and Justina Lara. Rosas announced in late March that it would be suing the city as officials worked on a new banned camping ordinance. The complaint was filed in the US District Court on May 18.

According to the lawsuit, Medford City has attempted “to get the homeless out of sight, out of sight, out of town or into jail” without providing adequate emergency shelter or affordable housing.

“Medford’s customs, policies, and practices applied to involuntarily homeless people violate the constitutional right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment, due process, and the same protections of the laws established by the eighth and fourteenth amendments,” claims the Suit.

The plaintiff named four people who have been homeless in the Medford area for two to ten years. The lawsuit demands that they be viewed as representing a class made up of all involuntarily homeless people living in Medford.

This type of suit is not uncommon, and some previous examples have stood the test of time in court. The City of Grants Pass lost a similar suit less than a year ago, Blake to City of Grants Pass. Perhaps more critical is Martin v. Boise, which, according to the City of Medford, was used as the framework for the new prohibited camping ordinance and which also served as a precedent for the Grants Pass decision.

Rosas’ lawsuit alleges that low-barrier shelters in the city are absolutely inadequate for the need as police work to enforce the new camping ordinance by clearing campsites along the greenway. Rogue Retreat’s municipal campground and Kelly Shelter – two low-barrier shelters in Medford – don’t have enough openings to accommodate the displaced, the suit claims.

The subject of shelter is one on which city officials and homeless lawyers have repeatedly disagreed. At the start of Greenway enforcement earlier this month, Medford officials said several shelters “reported having one or more shelters available”. The city has also approved an expansion of Rogue Retreat’s municipal campsite.

“Even if all shelters had a lower barrier, there wouldn’t be nearly enough beds to accommodate all the homeless in Medford. There are generally 10 to 20 beds available in total (including the Medford Gospel Mission) and even these rooms fill up regularly,” it says in the lawsuit.

Ultimately, the lawsuit asks the U.S. District Court to make six motions – certify the class, declare Medford’s guidelines for the homeless unconstitutional, make the Camping Ordinance and other related rules unconstitutional, issue an injunction that enforces enforcement These ordinances prohibit the plaintiffs from condemning costs and legal fees and granting any other relief “as just and fair”.

NewsWatch 12 contacted Medford City for a response to the lawsuit and received the following statement from the prosecutor:

“Due to the pending litigation, the city’s comments must be limited. However, the city respectfully disagrees that its bans on prohibited camping, civil exclusion, theft or abuse are unlawful. The city previously clarified the constitutionality of the city’s new prohibited camping ordinance in a letter to the National Homelessness Law Center attached. The Jackson County Circuit Court has already determined that the city’s civil exclusion order is lawful; that order is also attached. “

The civil lawsuit can be read here or in full below.

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