Friday, August 6, 2021

Will You Soon Have a City Funded Homeless Camp in Your Backyard?

The answer is : "quite possibly." The Vancouver City Council has made changes to the ordinances that regulate camping in public spaces. They have put into motion a plan to have fenced off "camping areas" to allow up to 40 homeless people camp in a 'controlled' environment with proper sanitation provided. I like the idea of minimizing the environmental impact that street camping has. But last count I saw published in the news was 800 homeless people are in Vancouver on any given night. The City of Vancouver states on their website that approximately 500 people are homeless in the city. Using the lower city number, they would need more than a dozen campsites to accommodate their own estimate. Where will these campsites be located? And what action will the city take to protect residents and companies that are impacted by these "facilities?" No such details are available. Here is a link to a news article about the changes.

These campsites will almost certainly affect property values for home owners and businesses nearby. They won't be building these in the posh neighborhoods on Evergreen Highway will they? Certainly not. These will likely get dumped into middle and lower class neighborhoods causing a decline in neighborhood stability, heath, and safety. These camps will cause a loss of value to property owners that often had to claw their way into this expensive housing market. They had to dump their last few nickels and dimes to buy the house, then pump their heart and soul into making it their home. Now here comes the lazy city council that just punts the homeless problem into their neighborhood.

So what will the city do to impacted residents and businesses? The city will do absolutely NOTHING to protect tax paying residents from the impact of this program unless the concerned citizens of Vancouver show up at City Hall and demand it. This means residents need to show up at City Hall and voice their concerns, and ask the city to release the proposed or approved locations of these camps. If no one stands up to demand accountability, no one will get accountable behavior from elected officials. This camp action is a 'punt' that avoids dealing with the underlying issues that lead to homelessness. Permanent homelessness is not an affordable housing issue as much as it is a drug abuse, and mental health issue. 

People all too often confuse these types of "solutions" with compassion. This is not compassion, this is an action that simply perpetuates the problem, and as witnessed in Portland, brings MORE homeless people into the region seeking the amenities afforded by these structured facilities. No my friends, this is not compassion. The compassionate thing to do is to get these people off the streets and into stable housing. This means providing drug intervention, mental health facilities, and job placement opportunities. 

There are some people who do not wish to be helped, they refuse to accept help and in open defiance will camp on our streets, urinate and defecate in parks, or perhaps worse in a creek that leads to the Columbia River while leaving trash to blow in the wind and clog our waterways ultimately adding to the Pacific Ocean Garbage Island. This campsite plan does at least address the environmental issues, but does not alleviate the problem at all but rather will likely amplify it.

We cannot offer help to those who will not accept it, nor should we offer our compassion to those who refuse it. Enabling people to continue to make bad choices is antithetical to compassion. Yet that is the best that Mayor Anne and the council can offer. 

A firm hand in keeping street camping out of our city is needed here and the money for this idiotic program should be diverted into drug and mental health programs for the homeless and more policing of homeless people that are sometimes a danger to the public. We should be offering help to street people who want to get off the street, and have the police remove illegal campsites with prejudice. Pumping potentially millions of dollars into a program that is more likely to perpetuate and expand the problem is foolish. All of this wasted money comes at the expense of tax paying citizens. 

The wealthy class of elected leaders and their rich donors will not feel the pain of this program. No, the middle class and poor people in Vancouver will bear the burden of increased crime, vandalism, and lower property values. The every day citizen will suffer the most. That is just typical political crap once again dumped in our neighborhoods.

We can do better.

Top photo published by KATU, lower photo published by Clark County News Today

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