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Time to consult professionals

Letter to the Editor,

The news article on the city council meeting on the homeless paints a sorry picture of the local elected politicians, and does not reflect well on the community. Another problem ignored by defensive individuals through half-hearted and unsophisticated approaches. Only the police chief apparently offered substantive comments about what his force is doing. When confronted by the Bishop about the council’s lack of strategic planning and action to address the problem, council members seem to do little beyond referencing their behind the scenes “action”, and pamphlets to address the problem and make the community safe for the homeless and citizens alike. Instead, one council member launches an attack complete with an accusation of discrimination based on her gender, combined with her rhetoric on the perils of angering a council member sensitive about claims about her leadership shortcomings. No public demand for accountability is appropriate for her, only softball queries wrapped in pretty packages she likes.

All the talk about identifying resources and distributing pamphlets, with insistence that the homeless are responsible for their own decisions and conditions, reflect an arrogant council ignorance and compassion regarding homeless issues affecting often trouble individuals and frustrated citizens. It is hard to believe that anyone would prefer cold and wet nights spent under a bridge, on a surface littered with trash and human excrement and other fluids, over safe sleep in a warm bed. It’s possible, but probably rarely. Homeless people are likely to be affected by judgment impaired by drug or alcohol abuse, poor health or mental illness. They may be unable to read the pamphlets handed to them, or to internalize the information and make a good decision for action as might be expected by an unimpaired citizen.

The homeless problem did not arise overnight, and citizens grow increasingly alarmed by both the crime and tarnished community image it brings. Half-way houses and other stopgap measures may generate revenue for some, but the sometimes shabby facilities from which they operate are unwelcome by taxpayers in the affected areas. Citizens are less and less comfortable walking neighborhood streets. Criminals must be taken off the streets and from under the bridges, but the causes of our too long ignored homeless problem must finally be addressed by competent, effective leadership. It seems time for the city council to consult professionals knowledgeable and skilled in dealing with homeless issues so that a cost and socially effective plan can be developed and implemented, now. Folks have had enough excuses, defensiveness and failure to act.

Cathy Fetzer


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