Brianna Del Rio — a homeless woman currently living at the Chetco Community Public Library — said some of the people camping there were causing problems, but she wanted to respect the library and get porta-potties to eliminate the use of bushes and landscaped areas as bathrooms.
She said she wanted to work with people to establish rules for those living at the library and ensure library patrons were shown respect.
Local leaders, candidates and citizens met with Del Rio Sunday morning at St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church.
Father Bernie Lindley hosted the meeting, and those attending included Brookings City Council candidate Carla Gottlieb, Councilor Dennis Triglia, Curry Homeless Coalition (CHC) Director Beth Barker-Hidalgo and mayoral candidate Teresa Lawson.
Del Rio brought an agenda to the meeting that included requesting porta-potties, establishing quiet times, policing and cleaning the area and what she called “PPP” or Porta-Pottie Patrols where campers would take shifts to make sure the portable toilets were maintained.
“We need rules,” Del Rio said, “and people need to watch their language and make sure there are no criminal acts. . .We need to be together and solid.”
Lindley said St. Timothy’s would pay for a month of the portable toilets if they were approved. Hidalgo said she would see if CHC could do the same but would also be looking into more permanent solutions and locations.
Hidalgo noted those at the library are policing the area and said she had provided toiletries, supplies and garbage bags on the condition that things stay clean.
Del Rio expressed concern for her safety because, she said, people were driving rapidly through the library lots at night, blowing their horns and flashing their lights.
Lindley and Hidalgo said they didn’t want to see the library issues dealt with by angry citizens.
Lindley asked Triglia to speak to the police to ensure that everyone at the library stayed safe and resident Bette Moore suggested someone in the group contact Brookings Police Chief Kelby McRae to discuss safety at the library.
Del Rio and Gottlieb said they would attend the library’s board meeting Friday morning, work with the board to address problems resulting from the homeless camp and request approval for portable toilets.
Lindley said he would be out of town for the Friday meeting but added Gottlieb had taken the lead on the library situation.
“I want to do what will make the community better,” Gottlieb said, “but I am sensitive to the idea that we are making things worse.”
She cited instances when residents had said the soup kitchens were supporting homelessness, but she said most of the people being fed at the churches are Brookings residents who have a home but are in “fragile conditions.” Many are senior citizens and the food and socializing helps them stay in their homes.
“There are no ‘sides’ in this,” Gottlieb said. “I feel bad there are issues at the library and I want everyone to feel safe there. If we work together we can work this out.”
Brookings City Manager Janell Howard and Library Director Julie Retherford discussed the problems with camping and homelessness Tuesday morning.
Retherford said they had a productive meeting that included the police and City Counsel Martha Rice.
“We are essentially trying to make sure our code of conduct is enforceable,” Retherford said. “We are working to make sure that our rules are within the bounds of the law.”
Rice was expected to offer guidance on a new code of conduct before the library board’s Friday morning meeting, according to Retherford. It could be presented to the board then.
Gold Beach was not having similar levels of visible homelessness, according to Hidalgo, saying there are occasionally a couple people sleeping in the parks but not in numbers such as she was seeing in Brookings.
“Most come into town for services or food,” she said, “but leave town at sunset.”
“We need to make it clear to Gold Beach that asking people to ‘move along’ or helping them move along is not OK with the (federal court) ruling,” Lindley said.
Lawson invited Gottlieb and Del Rio and those supporting their efforts to join her and others hanging lights in Azalea Park and “become part of the community.”
Hidalgo suggested that was a good way to “meet people where they are” and said the phrase works both ways.
She also said the situation might require more of what she called “Band-aid” solutions; temporary ways to increase help for the homeless while decreasing negative impacts.
She wondered if other churches would open their parking lots to displaced persons and RVs.
Lindley indicated that it was unlikely and added there were 22 churches in the Brookings area, but only four of them do the “heavy lifting.”
“Clearly the work of Christ is being done in this church,” Gottlieb said. “How can we spread this love through the other churches?”
Her question hung unanswered.
Participants agreed to “work to make the community better,” and added an “amen” before sitting down to spaghetti and salad.
Lindley asked Del Rio, “What are you going to do when you are no longer homeless?”
“I will still take care of my people,” she said.
The Chetco Community Public Library Board will meet at the library Friday 9 a.m.
Reach Boyd C. Allen at firstname.lastname@example.org .