• Thu. Dec 8th, 2022

Despite closure, Aberdeen City Hall homeless tent camp is growing

ByDebra J. Aguilar

Sep 11, 2021

Despite closing in July, the tent camp for the homeless adjacent to Aberdeen City Hall, known as TASL, sees more and more homeless camps in the city and the city n do not have the legal authority to delete them.

“To be quite honest, we’re struggling,” Aberdeen’s director of public works, Rick Sangder, told city council on Wednesday. “Police have no ability to enforce, code enforcement apparently has no ability to enforce, and Public Works certainly has no ability to enforce” camp evictions.

The closing of the camp fell on July 17 and the teams began cleaning up the remaining belongings. The city decided to close the camp after the state’s eviction moratorium ended in late June, and Coastal Community Action Program (CCAP) staff had been on site the previous weeks to help the more than 20 residents find other accommodations.

Some lingered after closing, and now others have returned to what was once a parking lot for city employees.

“We were only six campers left. We’re back to I think 10 or 11, in a very small space,” Sangder said. “There are no resources there. It’s a bad situation. I don’t know what the answers are.

Resources, such as garbage cans, fresh water and portable toilets, were removed when the camp was closed.

Sangder said he contacted third-party legal counsel for advice on the upcoming rules, but as of Wednesday did not hear back.

“I’ve spoken to the mayor about this and he’s also reaching out to third-party counsel to try to help us figure out how to move forward and get this shut down,” Sangder said.

Current city ordinances still do not allow evictions from camps on city-owned property unless an alternate overnight campsite is available.

“We’ve asked our council to come up with something based on our ordinances that we’ve had in the past or changed not too far in the past to provide spaces for campers downtown,” Mayor Pete said. Schave. “What we also changed at that time was to remove any criminal part of the police department’s ability (to enforce evictions).”

As Schave said, “If someone breaks in like in our parking lot, the police can come out and write them a $54 ticket day after day after day after day, and there’s no teeth there.” -inside. So if we partially change this order, it will give the police department more control over it.

Board member Tawni Andrews reminded the board and Schave that “you can’t make homelessness illegal, so I’m interested to see how that plays out because that’s a very, very strong language of the Ninth Circuit District Court that you cannot criminalize homelessness.”

The city’s current ordinances were written to comply with that court ruling which required that homeless people be allowed to camp on public property if no other shelter was available.

Council member Tiesa Meskis noted that the city had an ad hoc committee on homelessness that hadn’t met in some time.

“Homelessness is not going to go away until every person in our city is housed,” Meskis said. “So I would really like to encourage that we get this committee back in session and have discussions about how we can actively work with our homeless people and find solutions that can work for them, work for the city and just get the situation under control, because right now it’s not under control.

Meskis referred to years-long discussions with the county about their potential to provide homeless assistance through federal grants. The County Board of Commissioners did not move more than $1 million in funds for a low-barrier shelter.

“We have a lot of confidence that the county is doing something and we have nothing,” Meskis said. “It doesn’t mean we stop, it means we continue.”

Regarding Andrews’ concerns about an order that would criminalize homelessness, Meskis said: “If an order comes before this council that would make homelessness illegal, I can tell you right now that I don’t won’t vote for it. I would like to sit down with everyone and bring members of the homeless community together to find solutions.

At the end of Wednesday’s meeting, Board Chair Dee Anne Shaw presented a motion that was approved to schedule an ad hoc committee meeting to begin addressing current issues. A date and time have not been set.