Emily Albertson/The Siskiyou

Handling homelessness

Emily Albertson/The Siskiyou
Aaron Fletcher addresses Ashland community at Homelessness Forum held at SOU, Thursday.

Ashland may be a step closer toward a solution that could solve the city’s homelessness problem, after a town hall meeting was held at Southern Oregon University, Thursday.

The meeting gave community members a chance to voice their concerns and offer ideas about how to solve the issue with local homeless man Aaron Fletcher, Ashland Mayor John Stromberg, Ashland City Council member Carol Voisin, and former American Civil Liberties Union lawyer Ralph Temple.

Attendees discussed lifting the city’s camping ban, creating shelters, building a campground and having local landowners adopt local homeless people as possible solutions.

As a society we have a big investment in keeping people out of the homelessness, Stromberg said. What things can we do to help these people find stepping stones that keep them in a life that isn’t totally out of control?

The city’s homeless population consists primarily of young, white males who want to live apart from the culture of consumerism, Voisin said.

Voisin also said, according to a survey from the Medford-based St. Vincent de Paul, 83 of Ashland’s 200 or more homeless people are under 18-years-old.

Somewhere along the line, we failed them, Voisin said.

Enforcing the City of Ashland’s camping ban, and police issuing more than 60 citations for illegal camping in 2010 sparked a two-week long protest in the plaza in December 2010

Fletcher said the community should solve the problem itself, rather than looking to the government. Fletcher’s landowner adoption plan consists of community members filling out cards granting a homeless person permission to camp on their property in exchange for labor.

“It’s community enriching,” he said. “It works out more often than not.”

University organizations like Phronesis and the Civic Engagement Club sponsored the event. in conjunction with Oregon State Public Interest Research Group and SOU Office of Student Affairs.

“This isn’t a problem,” Fletcher said. “It’s an opportunity.”

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