Service animals – know your rights


The Americans with Disabilities Act defines a service animal as any animal that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability

This is the difference between a service animal and a therapy, emotional support or companion animal. A service animal must be individually trained to perform work or tasks directly related to the handler’s disability, while a therapy and emotional support animal merely provides comfort to an individual in some fashion.
Service animals are more than a pet. Most service animals are dogs, and can be of any size or breed (or mixture of breeds). Service animals are not legally required to wear special equipment or tags. Federal law prohibits requiring proof of disability or “certification” of the service dog’s training, or inquiring about the nature of the person’s disability. A person with a disability may not be charged admission for their service animal.

Service animals cannot be denied access to taxis, buses, trains, airports, airplanes, stores, restaurants, doctors’ offices and hospitals, schools, courthouses, polling places, government buildings, parks, zoos, housing and other places. Service animals and their access to all public places and commercial carriers is protected under Federal and State Law.

Under the ADA Title III regulations issued by the Dept. of Justice, there are only two questions that police, a business or other public accommodation may ask to determine if an animal qualifies as a service animal:

(1) Is the animal required because of a disability?
(2) What work or task has the animal been trained to perform?

For questions regarding the ADA and service animals, please contact the United States Department of Justice at 1-800-514-0301

Community meals go WE-ekly


If you pass by Railroad Park on a Friday afternoon you’ll find more than a grassy field and a children’s play area; a weekly community meal that is part homeless outreach and part community building. Wellness for Everyone (WE) began as a grassroots group in November 2015 when a woman asked a simple question in a Facebook group, could she bring a crock pot into Lithia Park and feed homeless people? Many people chimed in and Ana Witt donated $200 (her family budget for Thanksgiving) to rent Pioneer Hall. Dozens of people brought food and clothing and about 60 people enjoyed a feast. This was repeated in December and WE were on our way to feeding our community.
Now there are additional meals being served in our community and as the Friday meal in the park has grown, it has a new identity, Community Peace Meals.
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WE Community Meal – March 23rd


Enjoy a free hot meal and good neighbors.
4 PM – 5 PM

Ashland Culture of Peace
will facilitate a Talking Circle* from 2:30 – 3:30 PM
*Attendance is not required for the meal.

Ashland Railroad Park
“A” Street between 6th and 8th.

Organized by WE Ashland

for more information or to volunteer, call 541-690-2807


Ashland community group takes on hunger one meal at a time


WE (Wellness for Everyone) began with a post on Facebook where Amy Reer asked if it would be possible to feed some homeless people, or would the city shut down such an action. Many people responded and it quickly grew into an action where Pioneer Hall was rented for several hours on an afternoon in late November 2015. Dozens of volunteers worked together to prepare food, donate warm clothing and about 60 people were served a hot, nutritious meal.

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Support community meals for the homeless and hungry

Click Here for their GoFundMe campaign.


Wellness for Everyone (WE) is a non-denominational grassroots group that began in November 2015 as a response to the needs in our community. Hundreds of people in Jackson County are homeless and many of them live in Ashland, hiding along the Greenway and deep in the forested areas of our community. Although many area churches and other groups work diligently on this issue, we could see examples of people who were falling through the cracks and not receiving the services they needed. We wanted to do something about that.

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Reflections from sleeping outside


by Heidi Parker

I started getting cold around 4:30-5 p.m.  Some hot soup helped take the chill off, but it was getting dark, and the clouds in the sky were clearing, revealing a few stars.

A small band of fellow community volunteers milled about, most setting up little tents or tarps and spreading out warm sleeping bags in preparation for the long night ahead.  Since we weren’t allowed to make a campfire on the school playing field, (one of the conditions for our use of the space) and with the bare, un-inviting, portable toilets poised precariously on the hillside a ways away, the campers huddled and chatted quietly amongst themselves, while the high school Leadership Team, plugged into their sound devices, rocked gently to an inaudible beat.

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Department Of Justice affirms Homeless Rights

A court case in Boise, Idaho is bringing national attention to the issue of homelessness and the right to sleep. The DOJ recently filed a statement of interest on the case, a move that homeless advocates see as support for the issue. The DOJ files statements when when an issue has national merit. By issuing a statement, the DOJ is not taking a formal position on the benefits of the case, but brings attention to areas that local courts can take on and can strongly influence a court’s decision on the matter at hand.

In Bell v. the city of Boise, the plaintiffs are seven homeless people who feel as though they have been systematically targeted. They have been repeatedly ticketed under Boise’s camping ordinance (ORD 28-14) which reads in part, “WHEREAS, the use of the streets, public areas, parks and  the Boise River riparian area for camping purposes interferes with the rights of others to use the areas for the purposes for which they were intended,”

In September 2014, Boise amended the ordinance to read in part,   

It shall be unlawful for any person to use any of the streets, sidewalks, parks or public places as a camping place at any time, or to cause or permit any vehicle to remain in any of said places to the detriment of public travel or convenience; or to cause or permit any livestock of any description to be herded into any of said places during any hours of the day or night provided that this section shall not prohibit the operation of a sidewalk café pursuant to a permit issued by the City Clerk.  The term “camp” or “camping” shall mean the use of public property as a temporary or permanent place of dwelling, lodging, or residence, or as a living accommodation at any time between sunset and sunrise, or as a sojourn.  Indicia of camping may include, but are not limited to, storage of personal belongings, using tents or other temporary structures for sleeping or storage of personal belongings, carrying on cooking activities or making any fire in an unauthorized area, or any of these activities in combination with one another or in combination with either sleeping or making preparations to sleep (including the laying down of bedding for the purpose of sleeping).

Law enforcement officers shall not enforce this camping ordinance when the individual is on public property and there is no available overnight shelter.  The term “available overnight shelter” is a public or private shelter, with an available overnight space, open to an individual or family unit experiencing homelessness, at no charge. If the individual cannot utilize the overnight shelter space due to voluntary actions such as intoxication, drug use, unruly behavior, or violation of shelter rules, the overnight shelter space shall still be considered available.”

The DOJ statement says that the plaintiffs claim that, “the City of Boise and the Boise Police Department’s (“BPD”) enforcement of these ordinances against homeless individuals violates their constitutional rights because there is inadequate shelter space available in Boise to accommodate the city’s homeless population. Plaintiffs argue that criminalizing public sleeping in a city without adequate shelter space constitutes criminalizing homelessness itself, in violation of the Eighth Amendment.”

The Plaintiffs in the Boise case are asking the court to follow a Supreme Court case, Jones v. City of Los Angeles where it was ruled that on nights where there is inadequate shelter space, anti camping ordinances violate the 8th Amendment. By issuing a statement of interest, the United States “makes it clear that “the Jones framework is the appropriate legal framework for analyzing Plaintiff’s Eighth Amendment claims. Under the Jones framework, the Court should consider whether conforming one’s conduct to the ordinance is possible for people who are homeless.” The DOJ goes on to say something even more telling,  “If sufficient shelter space is unavailable because a) there are inadequate beds for the entire population, or b) there are restrictions on those beds that disqualify certain groups of homeless individuals (e.g., because of disability access or exceeding maximum stay requirements), then it would be impossible for some homeless individuals to comply with these ordinances. As set forth below, in those circumstances enforcement of the ordinances amounts to the criminalization of homelessness,in violation of the Eighth Amendment.

There are at least two examples of Supreme Court rulings that strengthen this statement. As Mark Joseph Stern points out in an article for Slate, in Robinson v. California, a California Statute was struck down when the court found that the state could not criminalise the “status” of drug addiction. He goes on to say that a Texas statute on public drunkenness (Powell v Texas) could apply to voluntary public drunkenness, but could not be used to punish those who are addicted to alcohol.  These create a framework where it’s likely that homeless people who are unable to conform to rules and regulations of public shelters, would still be protected from heavy handed ticketing for camping because addictions prevent them from being able to access available shelter.

What does this mean locally? We reached out to the city of Ashland and received the following statement from City Attorney Dave Lohman who says,

“While DOJ’s statement surely will be taken seriously, the court is not bound by it in any way.  The extent to which a judgment in the case will embrace the points made in the statement and the consequent practical implications for local jurisdictions – including possible new enforcement, property maintenance, infrastructure, financial, and interjurisdictional cooperation obligations – is impossible to foresee at this time, long before the case and possible appeals are decided.

Until Bell v. Boise is decided, the City of Ashland has no legal obligation to modify its proscription of unpermitted occupation of public property to the exclusion of use by the general public.

At any time, City Council could, of course, amend AMC 10.46 for any reason, including agreement with some or all of the points in the USDOJ statement.  Any revisions to Ashland’s ordinance before Bell v. Boise is finally decided could have to be reconsidered after its ramifications are clear.”

SIDEBAR: Ashland Oregon targeting homeless?

Right in the middle of Occupy Ashland’s 24/7 occupation of the city plaza in 2011, I held a front row seat throughout the late night and early morning hours and got a firsthand glimpse of how our city police targeted homeless people. Several times I stood just steps away and watched APD hand out tickets under Ashland’s camping ordinance (2972) which reads in part:


PROCEDURES.  WHEREAS the City of Ashland wishes to modify and update the City Ordinance relating to Prohibited Camping to clarify the offense is a violation and not a crime and to adjust timeframes and other provisions and THE PEOPLE OF THE CITY OF ASHLAND DO ORDAIN AS FOLLOWS SECTION 1 Section 10 46 020 Camping Prohibited is hereby amended to read as follows No person shall camp in or upon any sidewalk street alley lane public right of  way park or any other publicly owned property or under any bridge or viaduct unless otherwise specifically authorized by this code bv the owner of the property or by emergency declaration under AMC26 20 30 of the Mayor in emergency circumstances. “

The Rogue Valley Community Press wants to hear from our homeless community. How has this affected you? Have you been ticketed and what was the outcome?

Back in 2011, we tried to do “Court Watch” and are willing to take that on again, so if you have a court date and want a witness, please contact us at 541.622.9483 or

Letter from the editor

Dear readers,

It’s as timely as the leaves changing on the trees in Lithia Park. Fall arrives and with it comes a citywide effort to push back against the homeless. We see it every single year. Part of it stems from downtown businesses who, being that they are in the center of town, deal with problems coming from the homeless community. This “theatre of the oppressed” plays daily, year round, but is especially visible during the heaviest of the tourist season as warm weather invites everyone outside and those sidewalk theatres become full.

Some of that winds up being very uncomfortable to watch. I imagine it’s even harder on those who are living it.

In this issue you’ll find pretty extensive coverage of the city council listening session on “The people passing through”. There were good people in that room, and I believe that most people mean well. Unfortunately the conversation was framed so that it was a session that was seeking the worse possible examples of interactions between the housed and un-housed communities.

In the spirit of what Mayor Stromberg asked residents to do, we’d like to make a few suggestions on what the city of Ashland can do to address these concerns.

  1. The city of Ashland should provide access to public restrooms that are open 24/7 and that are located throughout the city. In previous conversations on this topic, the city has stated that this is too costly. With the public testimony of people who live near Railroad Park (for example) speaking of how they see homeless people defecating in the park while there are often locked restrooms is an example of how the city of Ashland is failing residents, both housed and unhoused.
  2. Placing 10 additional trash cans along the bike trail throughout town would be a proactive solution to littering. Currently they are few and far between. Adding a small percentage of garbage pick up to the city’s current budget would be money well spent.
  3. Several residents complained of camping. The city could open up floor space inside Pioneer Hall and expand the current cold temperature shelter.  It is illegal and unethical for the city of Ashland to punish people for being homeless and for sleeping when there are no other options.

The downtown exclusion zone prevents the city from hosting public meetings in that zone, unless those meetings are not “public” and that opens up a whole new set of problems. This is especially troublesome when the city is using that space to discuss the exclusion zone and the folks who are most affected would face further citations for attending. How can excluded people converse with mayor or city attorney? The city should address this concern in a transparent manner.

There’s an old African proverb that says that when elephants fight, it’s the grass that gets trampled. Let’s all be kind, not fight and take care of the grass.


Vanessa and Jason Houk

Ashland: Mecca or Menace?

Editor note: this is a satirical analysis of a very serious problem.

Death threats, lawless behavior, roaming dogs, abundant litter, public defecations and daily sexual assaults… this is not the set of Mad Max 2, this is Ashland Oregon. A terrifying trend has infected our community. A recent information campaign has brought to light the horrifying impact the hordes of homeless “travelers” are having on quality of life and the safety of citizens and visitors. These wandering bands of nomadic, homeless men are harassing and intimidating on a daily basis and the citizens and police are paralyzed to stop it.


Ashland Travelers… friend or foe?

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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?

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