Law enforcement officers and nonprofit representatives joined the Gold Beach City Council for a special workshop to address the local homeless population.
The goal was to discuss ways the city can become compliant with time, manner and place regulations regarding homelessness.
”What it comes down to is that if we tell people where they can’t be, we have to tell them where they can be,” said Gold Beach Police Chief Jordan White during the July 15 meeting.
Law enforcement has been told that they must not criminalize homelessness. Gold Beach police are asking for the community to come together to make a plan to provide viable options for homeless people to go.
“We’ve realized we need this to be a community solution. We can’t viably solve this out of sight out of mind and make it go away,” he said. “In order to do this right, it is going to require full commitment of community working together so we can all stand behind the decision that was made and be proud of the outcome and shoulder the burden because we are all going to own it.”
Gold Beach Mayor Tamie Kaufmann gave each of the city council members an opportunity to weigh in on the issue, and to share any ideas they have moving forward. After councilors spoke, members of the Library District and Curry County, as well as several nonprofit groups were invited to weigh in.
Council members suggested looking at the bigger picture for a long-term situation.
Several council members pointed out that not all situations of homelessness are the same. While there are those with mental health and drug issues, there are also situations where families with children and seniors are struggling.
“We need to look at long-term solutions and come up with a long-term plan,” said Councilor Summer Matteson, ”I don’t know if we are helping people by shoving them onto a lot and saying, ‘you can hang out here for a bit.’”
While others agreed a long-term commitment is needed, they suggested any progress is better than none.
City officials agreed to move forward with the idea of an “urban campground” to start. They agreed bathroom/shower facilities would be needed. City officials said they would be a partner rather than an owner in the operations.
Several people at the meeting volunteered to be a part of a work group to help the city move forward with their plans to be in compliance with the law including the Gold Beach mayor, police and fire chief and regional housing coordinator.
Mayor Kaufman said she envisioned the Gold Beach community making progress on the issue.
“I think we are going to have a better solution in about five years based on the fact that the city has been working long-term on solving the housing problem from the zoning perspective,” she said.
The city has grant funds they are using toward housing, and have hired a staff member to work on city planning, Mayor Kaufman said. She reported she has also been working with a property owner about the potential to build a subsidized housing project. She said local nonprofits are also offering other solutions to housing and mental health and addiction services.
“A combination of those is going to give us that piece that councilor Matteson was worried about – and not just putting people in a campground with nowhere to go,” Kaufman said.
In a follow up discussion with Gold Beach Mayor Kaufman, she urged all government-owned entities in the area join the city of Gold Beach in drafting their own Time, Place and Manner ordinances “so that we can have a consistent message to the population where they can rest and where they cannot.”
“It is important for people that are opposed to any assistance to the homeless population, realize that if we do not find a place for people to go within a reasonable distance, then we cannot ask people to leave publicly owned property,” Kaufman said.