At last a Council Person who Gets It

Homeless Encampment Sweep

Councilmember Ward's response to my question last week at the Downtown Fellowship meeting, about the on-going sweeps of homeless encampments, was one of the most thoughtful offered by any legislator I have heard.   He acknowledged the fact that these sweeps are not accomplishing anything positive as far as getting people out of their homeless situation or in reducing the number of people who are camped on the streets downtown. He described how he actually went downtown to witness a recent sweep and described the situation with both respect and a hard dose of reality. He provided some explanation to the man who was lying in the street in a video I had helped to share on Facebook - that the man was wanted for an actual crime (not encroachment) and that he was having a medical emergency that required an ambulance to be called. So I stand corrected in my outcry of what appeared to be abuse of a homeless man.  Talking about the health and safety impact that necessitates "cleaning" the streets where these encampments are located, Ward described items belonging to the man who was pictured lying in the street in the video, being loaded onto a truck - pieces of bicycle parts and so many items that we would consider trash, filled the truck.There seemed to be an issue with hoarding and I can imagine that when people have nothing and no anticipation of having the money to buy the things they need, they might have a tendency to collect anything that could possibly have value to them in the future. That's a problem. So is the stink and filth that comes from people having no place to throw away their garbage, and no place to use the toilet. What you end up with is a serious health hazard and the necessity to do these clean-up operations.  I appreciated the care Ward took with his words, never once demeaning anyone. It was obvious that he had given this issue a lot of thought and was coming from a place of compassion and concern for all of the people being impacted by the current shelter and housing crisis: the people without a place to live as well as the local residents and businesses. What a refreshing quality in a legislator!  Ward offered one short-term solution that he thinks could help to alleviate the necessity of these sweeps (at least the frequency) - creating more storage for people experiencing homelessness. Yes this would help and it's something that comes with the emergency sleeping cabins Amikas is promoting. I'd also like to suggest two additional solutions that could be implemented immediately while we work on other short and long term solutions: providing sufficient and appropriate trash receptacles, and portable toilets.  I realize that both of these suggestions come with their detractors - and that the reasons for objecting to them have some merit. But these are desperate times that call for flexible and innovative solutions that can be quickly implemented for the quick fix. The advantages of providing trash receptacles and toilets for people who have no place to go, far outweigh concerns that we are enabling homelessness, or that these might be used for illegal activities.  I'm encouraged by Councilmember Ward's words and look forward to his actions. Let's give him the tools he needs to accomplish this Herculean task he has agreed to shoulder. July is too long to wait for the Select Committee on Homelessness. Let's get this going now. Every day we delay, homeless people are suffering, criminals have easy prey, residents are not enjoying their homes where they pay dearly to live and merchants are losing business.