By editorial board • 

Homeless activity downtown is rising to an alarming level

Homelessness in McMinnville’s downtown “living room” is reaching levels that demand action by city government and the community it serves. The volume of seedy vagrant activity is rising to the point it is leaving indelible stains — literally and figuratively — on the city’s otherwise vibrant and inviting district. 

The issue, of course, is not new. Discussion has been arising at council meetings and other public forums for some time. But the magnitude is rapidly reaching crisis proportions.

Downtown McMinnville is a hub for governmental and charitable services that foster daily engagement with the homeless element of the community. But recent actions go far beyond down-and-out locals seeking assistance in an effort to turn their lives around.

Lockers and portable toilets have been installed downtown, and they serve as an inducement. So does a new bus depot facilitating $1 rides into town from larger population centers like Salem and Hillsboro, which have proven less hospitable.

Elements of the homeless population avail themselves of available services relatively responsibly. Unfortunately, their swelling numbers include miscreants who urinate and defecate on the streets and shoot up in alcoves and alleyways.

It’s not fair to merchants, residents and visitors to allow offensive and criminal behavior to continue unabated. It’s not even fair to the more respectful homeless, struggling to gain a steadier footing in life and move off the streets. 

One recent point of focus, the parking garage across from the community center, has been largely cleared for now.

It’s about time, as Police Chief Matt Scales said officers had responded to at least 220 calls there last year alone. It’s vital that employees and visitors feel safe parking on both levels, as parking is a growing concern downtown.

But simply moving the problem isn’t fixing it. 

If we had a surefire solution, we would offer it here. But we know this: It’s time empty talk gave way to real action. And that action is probably going to require a number of partners contributing in numerous ways.

There’s no point in trying to place blame for this sad state of affairs. It’s time all stakeholders banded together to assume responsibility for effecting a remedy.
The present scenario is intolerable. If it continues much longer, it threatens to deteriorate a downtown that it took several generations of dedicated leaders and committed citizens to turn into a nationally celebrated place to live, work and visit. 

Comments

Denise

Well said. Our family already will no longer go downtown due to safety concerns. Shame. Was a beautiful and trendy area.

TTT

Last week during a field trip to the library a homeless man stole a lunch that belonged to a 1st grade girl. I've had homeless throw shoes at me while I was jogging between 1st and 2nd on Ford. The librarians now have to lock the doors to the Carnegie room because the homeless are fighting outside in the Library Plaza. The homeless are living in their cars all day long and smoking marijuana openly at upper city park. The city atmosphere and safety built over decades of hard work is being ruined by aggressive and sometimes violent transients.

Bizzyditchaz

I was hesitant going to the Downtown Farmers Market last week. Our lovely small town is becoming a haven and, as this piece states, the tourist atmosphere McMinnville has created will be undone by inaction.

Reporter Starla Pointer

TTT, the police have not received any reports about homeless people taking children's lunches.

TTT

Then a report wasn't filed Starla. Check with the librarian that was running the field trip on the morning of 6/6/17. The sack lunches were identified with names and lined up for the children to pick up when they came out of the library and a homeless man took one that was waiting for one of the children. The librarian chased him down and recovered the lunch but by that time he had already gotten into the food. One of the chaperones on the trip went to Harvest Fresh to get the girl a new lunch.

Reporter Starla Pointer

Thanks TTT. I'll check with the library. Sounds like such an incident should have been reported to police, though.

TTT

I agree Starla. If citizens don't file reports then we have only ourselves to blame for the situation.

Brad M

My son loves to read. He is 6 years old and was top ready in all 3 kindergarten classes. One of his favorite things to do is go to the Library. I love it also. But this homeless problem isn't going away. I don't know how many times a bum is washing up in the bathroom there and he comes out and we have to go in there because my son has to use to potty and it smells like death. Is there anyway to fix this?

Reporter Starla Pointer

About comments claiming that a homeless person stole a lunch from a child during a field trip to the library: The library knows of no such incident; there was no chase. Library staff say they lock the doors of the Carnegie room during children's tours and other events; with school field trips, of course, teachers and parent volunteers are also on hand.

TTT

With all due respect Starla the incident did occur. For clarification I contacted one of the chaperones that was in attendance and they stated "It was a pool employee that stopped the guy with the stolen lunch". So my librarian title was in error. With that I've also been told of a homeless man that entered the ladies locker room at the pool. I know nothing more of this but would be interested to see if a police report was filed or a pool employee could give more information on this situation. This all goes back to your comment of no Police report being filed. If we don't make incidents known then the understanding and magnitude of the homeless situation is consequently also unknown.

DG

I can back up TTT's story. I teach across the hall from the teacher of the first grade student. She told me the same exact story later that day.

When we took our classes to the park/library field trip I made sure my parent volunteers not only escorted kids to the bathrooms, but had them check for needles and drug paraphernalia each time.

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