TRANSCRIPT: City of Ashland listening meeting to address transient issues

These are the partial transcripts of testimony from the City of Ashland meeting to address transient issues. We will be updating and cleaning this up over the next few days.

“In other words it’s the behavior and not the people that we are dealing with.”

Stromberg acknowledges opens ourselves up to all kinds challenges

Monday Nov 2 study session, action. Some council direction will come out of that.

We will post the entire collection of emails read on city website by mid next week.

If they behave with respect, they are welcome here. John Stromberg what suggestions do you have, how can we cope with this?

Josh Gross What were talking about is literally outside my front door. You talked about being respectful.Respectful communities don’t hold referendums on groups of people and what to do about them as a problem. IS this a city or is this a gated community, has to operate by laws. The DOJ policing of homeless violates bill of rights. I watch the police harass the homeless and leave the public alone. 14th amendment.

This is about philosophy.

Having to see police harassing people because they don’t look like they fit in. This attitude does not fit into the community. If they aren’t like us, who cares, that isn’t part of the problem.

Leigh Madson. I’ve seen behavior. Dehumanizing language used. These are not their motives. In 1967 I looked like that. I understand you may be afraid of  that/ These are man children, John.

We can changed how people behave down there. 25 people standing down there. Identifiable by their behavior. What if there’s people different from me, people the same as me. Why dont we do something in the plaza so we all use it. Intentionally go down there. We mix the culture, diverse culture. Only us can create that. We put our pants on the same. Let’s share the community

Katharine Cato Marketing Director Ashland Chamber of Commerce
This is a complex issue. .It’s Not a downtown issue, not a chamber issue.  It’s about those who choose to be home free and their abusive behavior. We live in a fragile environment. Sense of place important to all of us. This issue is about those who do not care about or contribute to our community, nor contribute to it. We collectively want a place people to raise families without fear. We are asking for a broad based community solution. How bad does it have to get? People are afraid. The damaging, threatening and abusive behavior displayed by these individuals who choose to be home free on a daily basis in Ashland need to be addressed.

Kate O’Dell, homeless for a year been homeless since middle school. I love this community. The homeless community is very different from the middle class, different values. They are refugees. i try to make an honest living and sell my scarves on the street and that’s illegal as well. Being pleasant and getting along. Its very different when you are surviving day to day. Homeless people help each other. You don’t survive by following the rules that are stacked against you. Hire an advisory panel of actual homeless people, what works what doesn’t work. There is a huge amount of trauma on the streets, runaways, PTSD, It’s so difficult to get mental health services. Vets with PTSD, to try to understand what you are dealing with, have compassion. Judging people who are behaving badly Illegal acts can be dealt with by cops.

Nick lives near RR tracks, talks about groups of homeless that camp behind boulders near his property. Repeatedly called police asking to move them along. Sometimes when my wife and I go to the gym we almost trip over them. Cleaning up after campers, 3 years. 26 beer cans out there now, haven’t cleaned them up yet Watched people sleeping defecating in RR park. 20-30 yr olds. Solutions, police can go down RR tracks and move those people along. Perhaps we could set up homeless shelters and camps, but there are those who choose to be homeless, THOSe people are not part pf our community, they are just using our community for their needs and moving on.

Don green I live along the RR tracks also. In a 10 min walk there were 12 homeless camps along the path. All living there illegally. Ive run them off numerous times. I water along the RR track because they throw cigs there burning, all the time. I worry about is my house going to be burned down now by these people who are mostly young, mostly homeless by choice, Not the vets. These people need to be moved along. They are illegally camping, need to be moved, I call the police, they say is it on your property they can’t do anything about it. My grandchildren get nervous around these people. With all the taxes we pay we should not be driven off.

Rick (Holliday Inn) chamber members pitbulls, threatening dogs, people sitting, drinking in public, F bombs outside my office. It’s just irritating. Looking in the hotel windows trying to get free breakfasts. Naked in showers They’ve been coming here since 1960. I have seen people accosted outside Shakespeare. Pass a law that makes it illegal to panhandle. These people are here because the gate is open.

Name? woman Is it a community homeless problem or community safety problem. Garden Way community park June 26 dog attack by 5 unleashed dogs, Dogs surrounded the woman, I yelled in pain and fell to the ground. Neighbor stood between pit and lady. The 3 people who had the dogs were 100 feet away. Neighbor said you need to control your dog, she’s hurt. They did not come over to help. Dialed 911. police arrived. Dog people yelled we didn’t break the law. Police looked at leg asked if I wanted to call an ambulance, Officer took photo of her leg. fearing they will know where I live.

Valley Immediate Care. 4 police, SPCA in park. The people and their dogs are still there in the park. resolution? No one available, Left message with officer, no return call. remained in the park for 5 days. Back of their van says pre-candy.

Sandra Slattery chamber of commerce, Values we hold are in jeopardy, Values of living in small town, friendliness, safe and healthy environment. why do we allow people who do not live here to take advantage of us? Sexually harass young woman every day and create fear in people. This is not about homeless, this is about a chosen lifestyle. Why do we allow this abuse? This issue will define our future.

woman, no name  Many people out there are dying without help. What I heard is that many are making it a controversy instead of providing help. Many people are disabled and on the streets. Mental problems.

David Hill Involved St Vincent De Paul run across sleeping bodies in lithia park, witnessed boisterous behavior on plaza and front of chamber, but I get to meet these people daily one on one face to face and it gives you a little different perspective. The travelers come to Ashland for the same reasons we did, it’s a nice place to live. They don’t come here to make trouble. Falso dichotomy between homeless and home free. They are homeless but look to a little bit of pride by saying it’s my choice. It’s not really their choice, they are stuck just like the rest of them. My boss tells a story of a homeless man who was hit by robbers and left in a ditch. He was passed by many people who didn’t help him. Finally a good samaritan recognized him as a human being.

If people are treated like animals they will act like animals if they are treated with respect, they will act with respect.


Dot Fisher Smith

I’ve lived in this community since 1981, I want to point to the bigger picture that all of us bring up these kind of behavior all symptomatic of a society that creates war… rather than taking care of each other. She talks about her encounters with people, mostly friendly because she greets them with a smile. When met with fear or hostility they are going to give back what they get. I think more ordinances and laws are just more repressive. The behaviors are just a few people, the behaviors of just a few. We have to walk in other people’s shoes. suggestions… if people would go to the community meal at methodist on Tuesday and sit with the people, it’s meant to be a community meal, not just for the homeless. There’s plenty of rowdy people in bars– I could complain about them. Shakespeare has bricks ambassadors. We would have a main street ambassadors, people who hang out on a scheduled basis, talk to people, be friendly with them.

David Whitman I’ve been sworn at. It is a complex issue and is one that is going to take some real thinking. Ashland Culture of Peace Commission. Maintain respect within community, It is about relationships. It’s about establishing what are our expectations for quality of life? Welcome to our home and here’s how we live. Talks about communicating responsibility, having a presence in our streets, engage people one on one. New thinking, new approach, not just ordinance.

unknown name woman I took in a young woman who lived with me until she graduated. The rights of the homeless cannot supercede those in the community. Daily adventure to dog park. This summer dog park, many times people would say don’t go there, those people are there again. Young men with pit bulls, lot of disrespect a lot of swearing. Remind everybody to treat people the way we want to be treated. Don’t take guests out on town, not enjoy downtown the way I used to. solutions, uncle foods diner they are having more problems about what to do and its about respect on both ends.

Cynthia Rider, mother exec director of OSF.Chamber board member,  I have a teenage daughter and walking through downtown with her, she is often sexually harassed, even when I am with her. And she is surprised that I am upset because she says that it happens 4-5 times every day. So she is growing up in her community that will tolerate constant harassment of young women. She has been flanked by two men on two sides by two young men, telling her that she is beautiful and that they are so high and she is so sexy that they are going to walk with her anyway, to protect her. She’s been flanked on both sides by two young men, one in front one in back, taunting her. Luckily nothing happened beyond this because she was able to get away. So as a mother that is obviously incredibly upsetting and the fact that it continues over several years and has not stopped.

She reads an excerpt from a Dallas High school theatre OR teacher. Something terrible happened. Last year I brought a group of students and something terrible happened. On the way to the theatre one of the street people grabbed my student and jumped on his back and rode him like a horse. He had just had a kidney transplant and had a compromised state of health  . We received lots of verbal taunts.

Pam Hammond OSF board, Chamber member, read letter from her daughter Kelly Jean Hammond, As someone who has lived in Ashland for a good deal of my adult life, I have my fair share of downtown horror stories. SOme of the harassment I have been the recipient of has been mildly humorous, adopt me pretty lady, confusing, hey you look like you could star in a porn version of the hunger games or gross, how often do you masturbate, and downright threatening, transient to me on the phone hey have you talked to your boyfriend, I’m going to kill him up so you’ll F me instead. For ignoring these advances I’ve been called a bitch more times than I can possibly count.

Incident that happens in Paddington. woman mentally disturbed. Her clothes are filthy and she has an inability to care for herself. She has no place to sleep. Sprays herself with my perfume samples. My heart goes out to her. It shouldn’t be this way.

New law in CA laura’s law, new state law. Allows for court ordered assistant outpatient mentally ill.  Community code of conduct. Be nice, encourage diversity in our community.

Jason Diamond I’ve been sexually harassed, these are people, they are humans as well. VEry complex situation, should be a long conversation. general clutter that comes with the presence, squatter situation. Person their bag their everything that i am tripping over.

Jaycee Gray I work inspired by Oregon (Chamber members) directly across from chamber and Starbucks. She yelled at someone to get off statue and he yelled obscenities. I was ready to call police and he pulled back and strutted across plaza. He had his bicycle and a rope to one of the trees and hung all his laundry across that. I hear/see this every single day. Inspired by OR Jewelry Box and Paddington station all owned by same owners. In line customer, “We were going to move here but we changed our minds. THis is not what we want to see.

General Manager of Holiday Inn Express;  I’ve called the police numerous times to have them trespassed off the property. Getting more aggressive. The times we call police has negative impact on the hotel (tripadvisor,) Ashland Holiday Inn Express has a homeless problem. Needs to be addressed. I’m talking up clover lane. I know that a number of them congregate at the food bank and ARC. I want this to be addressed. I like the idea of getting the community involved. Willing to be part of solution.

Susan Frantz business owner. What conduct upsetting to use children and young babies for begging. Having large individuals in my face after I’ve said no. I see it in my business which is near the library I see homeless people in the bushes often smoking joints. It’s a frequent congregation. We’ve got to have public bathrooms open 24/7. They don’t have a private place to go because they don’t have a place to live in (pot issue). Acknowledges that it isn’t right to cite people for urinating when there’s no place to go, More help from the community. Pre K for homeless so we don’t have to see these young children exposed to that. Mental health resources and city volunteer network to help others in need. High sense of public responsibility for public space. I am not referring to them and those people, but welcoming them as guests and asking them to comply with our standards.

Ash came for indigo children gathering. i’ve been a refugee They are refugees with a heightened awareness of what’s going on in the world. Any one of us can find ourselves in the same situation. humanitarian opportunity for us to take a different direction of compassion and sharing.

Alice Mallory worked in barrio in E los angeles, poor on plaza talked about how she mans the booth in plaza during summer and shares info with homeless. Has nice conversations with them. We are a theatre destination town. Because of OSF we have culture and art. People want to be here. She describes how homeless are given multiple citations and excluded by the city.

Carol Anderson on board of OHRA operate ash comm resource center  city funds us to provide

What do we do about it? How do you legislate good behavior? How do you pass a law that makes people act nicely. In resource center we have code of conduct and people can be asked to leave, but the city has to provide 1st amendment rights. 9-2 m-f job match program food, snacks, coffee, heat, air condition, address, internet, clothing bank, hair cuts for people interviewing, service connections legal aid, mental health.

Ben Horman  Ashland is a utopia. Part of that is because we don’t hide things here. Money is the key. As a city what do we want? No loitering? Move people out. Or we can say we respect these rights and put our money where our values are.  I was working for Community Works Street Kids Outreach and the lack of funding shut them down.

David French owns Griffin Creek Roasters This year we bought a house here in Ashland. My family gives back. We think of ourselves as good citizens. 2nd quest is inappropriate. To me it’s all about the behavior. I no longer allow my daughter to go downtown by herself. Citizenry and the city needs to work. Individuals are being disrespectful. We go to tons of plays at OSF and if the employees there treated us that way we wouldn’t allow it. Trip advsor this is going to haunt this community. less to do with what people look like. I feel threatened when I go downtown. They engage in dialog with me and I say can’t help you and they accost me verbally.

Trina Sanford nate sanford, sanford group builders and real estate agents. property owners IPCo Printers property manager and parent of 5 . Our property is now known as tolman creek resort. Our property, that side of town is littered with transients. I go to the grocery store with my children and I hold them tight because there’s homeless there standing at Shop N Kart and Bimart and when I dont give them money they yell, they scream. Two weeks ago I waited with 2 of my very young children in my car for a police officer to arrive as we were waiting for them to remove 2 homeless men who had set up a tent on our business property, The police officer did not arrive for about an hour. During that time my children and I watched as these 2 men drank beers, threw their trash into our bushes, urinated on our landscape and they turned and saw us in the car, raising their hands, coming towards us and it was when I turned on my car that the guy patted his chest gave me a peace sign and walked away. The police officer came an hour later and he did tell them they had an hour  to get off my property. Once they left i was the one who had to go and pick up their trash, remove everything. My father has shoveled human feces off our property into garbage bags. He has been physically threatened. We have many small businesses on our property who we feel responsible for. They don’t deserve to have these transients in their back door. Awhile back I had a transient man that I must have upset taunt me at rite aid. I watched him, he jumped on my car. An employee of rite aid had to pull him off my car. I used to go to the plaza with my friends, we don’t allow our children to do that. Its sad, it’s pathetic and something needs to be done.

AHS student Spencer Hills It starts with our education. I’ve been all over the world and my heart really goes out to some people. Suggests homeless go to stores during business hours to use bathrooms. If they are going to be customers…

woman? Lithia park ordinance, no sleeping no dogs. We saw someone sleeping in the park. woman walking in park with dog. People are sleeping there. I expect these ordinances to be enforced.  We live above Lithia Park and see people walking to the reservoir. Daughter in summer went to swimming hole, overtaken by nude swimmers. Neighbor found a shirtless man in their backyard. Neighbors worry about the safety in their own home. I’ve heard people say they have just as much right to be here, so do we. Hat shop, someone threw brick.

Amy Blossom, raised family here Librarian. Travelers come in library and there’s a code of conduct we treat people w respect and people treat us back w respect. Staff says we have more people coming in and they are carrying more stuff which can get in the way but they have no place to put it, so there’s a dichotomy. She says she has not have anything like the experiences described in the plaza/downtown w/ harassment.

Cindy Bernard President Chamber Commerce works at Masonic Lodge, building shared w resource center. I’ve had my way blocked when I’ve asked them to move I’ve been yelled at, called every name in the book. my request was that they have someone walk the parameter every so often, It feels very unsafe since i am there all alone. Describes how when people are asked to leave the center, they do leave and they park on the street and they camp. and police can’t do much about it. today when I left at 445 there were 5 people, 6 dogs and numerous backpacks. Police say kind of a grey area. We have a perfect platform for education at resource center. everybody has to respect everybody. How do you even approach people like them? Maybe the people at resource center need to teach us how to have that conversation.

Francesca Emery owner Bayberry Inn, Chamber member grocery store being accosted, screamed at. Drugs being offered to my friends downtown. my kids, I don’t feel sale with my 11 and 14 yr old, they come home and tell me about a new friend they met downtown, a transient. Most concerning I had to call the police two times because people were loitering on my property, The first one was a big party and the police did come and they asked them to leave and they did leave (at B and B) Last 2 months conversations at breakfast table was about transients. Everyone’s asking for money.

Second was a man so drunk he passed out on my property. Police said there’s nothing we can do. Hosp won’t take him, police can’t take him. police say the only thing you can do is file charges, but they won’t take him in Medford jail. As much compassion as I have, very difficult situation.

Gwen Davies a new leaf hypnotherapy hypnotist garden way park this summer. walking my dog to the park as I have done for 20 years, and neighbor warned me about this candy group that was camping in the park. Who knows what could have happened? Every single person just stared at me and the dogs were loose.

There was another group there that had dogs and they were off leash and a squirrel came in front of my car, don’t feel safe. I am retired social worker. We need a robust law enforcement. We need a much better safety network in our country.

Kathy Kennedy, Re?Max Realator i have clients and tenants that live in ashland. ashland is developing a reputation that we really don’t want to develop. I’ve had a number of issues of transients camping. I put up security system because my tenants felt jeopardized. I’ve had to pick up their trash, excrement, litter. One of my tenants thought he was going to buy a home here and the first week he was here he was accosted in a terrible way. Albertsons shopping center. accosted twice.

Look at other cities that have solved this problem. my children grew up in an ashland that doesn’t exist anymore. A lot of friends wont bring their grandchildren to ashland anymore because they don’t want to have to explain what’s going on.

Natalie Ritchey business owner in town, experienced being screamed at, my sons girlfriend being sexually accosted, yelling cat calls at his girlfriend. I recently had someone damage paint and screens. I was curious about what type of resources were in town for homeless. Not a homeless but a transient issue. My son and I went out and walked through the food bank and PHRA. There wasn’t an empty seat in the house There were many people at the computer desk, there were people charging their cell phones. my son asked what percentage of people have used clothing to get job. One man came in for a suit and we considered him a huge success, didn’t get a job but we consider him a huge success because he had a few meetings. majority of what we saw looked to be more transients than homeless you know with their backpacks that they carry. The place looked like it could use a sweeping, and no one was doing anything for a meal. They were all sitting around kind of being waited on. We were dismayed. IN my opinion its part of the problem. If we’re going to have the bird feeder out they are going to come and get free showers and food.

Chris my wife and i go to the varsity and people yell at us when we don’t give handouts. Some woman asked give me money for diapers for my baby. I said I don’t have money for diapers for baby and I was cursed at. Dreaded black swan where there’s a mob of people and you have to walk over to get to the other side of the street.. solutions I am not going to solve their problems, I honor the social contract and I expect them to as well. Lived in Laguna Beach, does not have this problem and it is a mecca. Ask them how they solved that.
Regina Balsimore, I want to share a different perspective on why this is happening.  I am a former preschool teacher. I am a homeless unemployed transient. I was a transient for 6 months and now here I am. I was home free by choice. I had 3 jobs, I paid my bills my rent. I had a back yard and a car and it wasn’t enough.  The travelers you see are in every city and they are an entire generation. You must understand that this is a mentality, This is a rebellion. a movement against everything American society has produced and that’s okay to an extent/ People are changing, the world is in revolt. My generation is trying to develop a culture they can believe in. Unfortunately they don’t believe in buying a house, having a 9-5, a bank account, getting married, they want something different and I can tell you right now, we don’t know how to get it. This is the product of misdirected unhappiness, of current societal norms. I do not want to have a house. I don’t want to get married. I don’t want to be stationary, I don’t want to be considered normal. but in order to fit into a community that I have grown to love, I forced myself to conform. I come to these meetings, I integrate myself into public happenings, I volunteer at the Medford public Library. I do have a plan. And I can find a purpose and with effort and courage I will direct my unhappiness  into changing our world. The other kids, they don’t want anything. They don’t want to be off the streets, they don’t want your privilege. They want to disrupt society and challenge your beliefs, Your entire existence is a threat to them and that is why they disrupt your day to day activities. It’s misdirected unhappiness and that is okay. What’s not okay is obvious illegal behavior. However  these people do not live by the same rules. That is the whole point. Regardless of our unsettled youth, resources and counsel should be implemented for the homeless. When you begin to see these people as potential and welcome the challenge of a different mentality there can be monumental growth on both ends.