Day after homeless man’s death, Medford/Access expand emergency overnight shelter

MEDFORD, Ore. —One day after a homeless man was discovered dead by police, advocates are worried about the freezing temperatures, and people on the streets.

Wednesday NBC5 News told you about a local homeless man who died in Medford, out in the elements. Police believe his death could be related to the freezing temperatures. Now, housing advocates worry about other people, who could be out on the streets.

The city of Medford passed a prohibited camping ordinance in the spring. It banned the use of tent camping and any camping in certain areas like the Bear Creek Greenway or Prescott Park during fire season.

Maig Tinnin says the Housing Justice Alliance, was formed in response to the city’s implementation of the ordinance. After Manuel Barboza-Valerio’s death Wednesday morning, it’s looking for a change.

“We are calling on the city to do an immediate moratorium and to not enforce the prohibited camping ordinance starting immediately,” said Tinnin.

Police say the 29-year-old, was found along Bear Creek in Medford, missing some clothing. They believe the elements contributed to hypothermia, ultimately leading to his death.

“It does appear that weather is going to be a contributing factor, the individual was near water, he had removed some of his clothing that was found in the water, and he did have some underlying medical conditions,” said Lt. Mike Budreau with MPD.

Last week the city of Medford declared a severe weather event, opening its navigation center on Market Street for 4 nights now. It provided food, bedding, and dry storage. The city and Access say the shelter served 19 people on December 9th, 25 people on the 13th, 34 people Tuesday, and 38 people Wednesday. When available beds were full, they say individuals were offered the opportunity to warm up inside.

“We’re constantly monitoring the weather, we work in coordination with the city and other community partners to make sure we are able to open this stuff up,” said Matthew Rogers with Access.

Tinnin says Barboza-Valerio was known to use a tent, but can’t confirm he tried to use the navigation center or another shelter.

“We don’t want to see more people die on the street this winter, we are just getting into the winter and to already have an early death like this is terrifying,” said Tinnin.

Both the city and Access say they are evaluating operations, and are now expanding shelter capacity to 50 and additional bedding has been secured. If a bed is not available, that individual will be able to rest in the building, out of the weather.

The shelter is low barrier and does not require any religious affiliation or drug testing to enter. Access says they need volunteers to staff it, you can sign up on its website.

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Jenna King is the 6pm anchor and our Feature Reporter at 10pm and 11pm for NBC5 News. Jenna is a Burbank, CA native. She graduated from the University of Oregon with a degree in Broadcast Journalism and a minor in Sports Business. During her time at Oregon she was part of the student-run television station, Duck TV. She also grew her passion for sports through her internship with the PAC 12 Network. When Jenna is not in the newsroom you can find her rooting for her hometown Dodgers, exploring the outdoors or binging on the latest Netflix release.
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