Pamplin Media Group – Tigard takes action to tackle homelessness issues

Community service worker made progress in meeting needs of homeless people while enforcing codes

Tigard officials say the city has made progress in recent months in reaching out to homeless residents, discussing services that may be available to them, while responding to private landlords who want homeless camps to end.

In an April 20 working session at Tigard City Council, Police Chief Kathy McAlpine said a fall meeting with downtown Tigard business leaders and homeless advocates Local Shelter and Mental Health focused on the increasing visibility of transients around downtown Tigard, including along the town’s Heritage Trail, which begins on Main Street.

“One of the things I heard from them was always the need to have a visible presence,” said McAlpine, “and so I created, for lack of a better term, a pilot program in which I contacted a community service worker, Brandon. Peterson, and asked him to really devote his time to checking in our homeless people, because at that time we had the right one (personal protective equipment) and could do those checks. ”

Of Peterson, she added: “He is very modest, but he put a lot of heart and soul into this effort, as you can see, and he is really taxed – because the need is greater than he is – even.”

Peterson called his new charge a monumental task of raising awareness of homeless people.

“I have worked to try to strike a balance between law enforcement and awareness with limited time and resources,” said Peterson, who noted that as the homeless population grew. Tigard is increasing, makeshift camps have become more visible on city trails, green spaces and along highways.

Peterson said he has found that the most visible homeless residents are the most difficult group to provide resources because they need “holistic services.” This can include mental health counseling, or drug treatment, or potentially both. Some have criminal convictions or are on probation, while others are living with disabilities, he said.

Peterson said one of the people he has had frequent contact with over the past few months is “Larry,” who camped behind Tigard Town Hall along the Fanno Creek Trail until December.

Peterson said Larry, who was from out of state, told him he was kicked out of a shelter and was having difficulty getting an Oregon ID card due to closures. COVID-19.

On December 20, the area was hit by heavy rains and the Fanno stream was inundated. Larry abandoned his camp and asked for help at the Just Compassion shelter. The snow and ice storm of February 11, which also caused extensive damage to trees, also caused the collapse of several of these makeshift shelters.

“On March 11, our parks department cleared up to five campsites along the Fanno Creek Trail, including Larry’s. Larry was by far the worst, as the flooding dispersed the debris and left a muddy mess, ”Peterson said. “The city spent 35 and a half hours on staff time, and it cost $ 1,042 to clean up the camps.”

Peterson also monitored the camps along Route 217 on the Oregon Department of Transportation right-of-way between Route 99W and Southwest Hall Boulevard.

On January 27, a property manager at Carriage House Apartments contacted the code enforcement officer, telling him that some of the camps were only yards from residents’ balconies. Tenants complained of issues such as open defecation, vandalism, noise, trespassing and littering. Some tenants have canceled their leases for security reasons, the property manager told him.

ODOT has finally cleaned up the property, and soon there will be permanent “No Trespassing” signs placed in the right-of-way, Peterson explained.

Peterson said that during his time monitoring homelessness issues, he had formed a relationship with the Bybee Lakes Hope Center, the former Wapato prison that now houses homeless people. In addition, he put people in touch with awareness programs offered by Just Compassion, the Tigard organization which offers a day resource center for the homeless and night services in severe weather.

In the April 20 business meeting, Tigard City lawyer Shelby Rihala described how the city’s hands are sometimes tied when it comes to homelessness issues. She noted that a precedent-setting court case ruled that cities cannot arrest or punish homeless people if there are no other places to go.

City Councilor Heidi Lueb noted that at the regional level, this is not a problem specific only to Tigard.

“Every city in Oregon and every state faces this problem,” agreed Kathy Nyland, deputy city manager, noting that the topic of homelessness is frequently discussed among other city and county leaders in the city. Washington County. “Education is going to be a big part because I don’t think the community realizes how complicated the problem is and what we can do and what resources are available or what is needed.”

This week, McAlpine said she supported the convening of the former 15-member Tigard Task Force on the City’s Homelessness, a group that made suggestions to the city regarding how best to deal with the homeless community.

“The police should not be leading this effort, but we cannot ignore that the police are the first to be called in for encampments, trespassing and other issues,” McAlpine said. “Brandon (Peterson) made significant progress, but that’s not the only answer because we know it was only a small part of (what the police) could do under my direction.”

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A so-called Washington County Point-in-Time Count to physically count all homeless people, carried out in January 2020, showed that 618 people were living in shelters or temporary housing or living outside without shelter.

The demographics of the enumeration showed that:

  • not
  • 494 adults surveyed were over 24 years old

  • not
  • 41 young people were between 18 and 24 years old

  • not
  • 83 children under 18 were counted

  • not
  • 191 identified as women, 424 as men and two as transgender

  • not
  • 517 were non-Hispanic or non-Latino individuals

  • not
  • 101 identified as Hispanic or Latino

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