For months folks have been complaining about the homeless problem in the city. A few months ago, the City Council tasked the police chief with providing a plan for the issue. Last Tuesday the plan was presented, but the staff report was sparse on cost detail.
How did the homeless who commit crimes, trespass into areas that are off limits to everyone else and contaminate them with human and other hazardous wastes become empowered with some sort of special privilege?
The scope of this problem is substantial. The Police Department surveyed the area, and according to a staff report there are “60-75 encampments in the riverbed area along the border of the city that impact our community. In addition to the current occupied encampments, there are also encampments that have been vacated, and where large amounts of garbage and other refuse were left behind.”
Apparently, there is a serious health issue associated with the camps. The report states, “The riverbed does not offer sanitary facilities for people to care for themselves in a manner consistent with preventing the spread of illness and disease. In contrast, due to its mere nature, it often provides an environment that actually supports breeding grounds for pathogens. …
“With this in mind, when the inhabitants leave their encampments during the day and interact with other persons in the community, it creates a possibility of danger to public health.”
So, what is the plan? It is multi-faceted and will take months to complete, and there is no guarantee new camps won’t spring up when officials are no longer in the area. First, are eviction notices, then a homeless triage center to transition riverbed inhabitants into regular housing, which you and I will pay for.
Next, riverbed cleanup and removal of encampments, and lastly, ongoing enforcement to prevent homeless people from returning to the riverbed. Concerning ongoing enforcement, the LPD has only provided an estimate for seven days of activity, not long-term ongoing enforcement.
How much will it cost to fix this problem? Staff says, “the scope of the overall project is still being determined so staff is unable to estimate a total cost through completion of the cleanup.” So, they went to the council for a funding authorization and don’t even know how much to ask for. Simply amazing.
All the costs — they think “hundreds of thousands of dollars” — will probably come from the General Fund. I guess the idea is to take money that could be used for park improvements, staff retention or to maintain city infrastructure and use it to “transition riverbed inhabitants into regular housing” and clean up the mess they created.
This is a problem created by neglecting the issue and failing to enforce camping laws for over a decade. Citizens have dutifully reported these conditions to police and nothing was done. Police and Fire departments have responded to numerous incidents but nothing was done.
Now it’s going to cost money the city doesn’t have to fix a problem that should never have existed in the first place.
So, what did the council do about this request? They voted 5-0 to approve the plan. They will close River Park for 90 days as a transition point for the evicted parties. There isn’t anywhere for them to go as of now, there are no funds for the transition center and there is no contractor to clean up the mess. What could possibly go wrong with this plan?
This looks like another plan with costs that will keep on growing.