By Tom Henderson • Staff Writer • 

Survey targets downtown 'stakeholders'

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Comments

leo

So Tom, could you please take Courtney, Crystal and Angel home with you?

sbagwell

I get your point, Leo. However, it is incredibly disingenous for local civic leaders to dance all around the actual cause of the problem, which is homelessness.
They say they are merely targeting disruptive behavior and trying to ensure the safety of citizens and visitors. But who is it, exactly, that has been displaying disruptive behavior and threatening safety in downtown McMinnville?
Obviously, it's elements of the homeless community. Not all elements, but some elements.
Dancing around the elephant in the room with a flurry of euphenisms isn't really helpful. Neither is ignoring the homeless themselves as we grapple with options.
Steve

Denise

Well Mattson could could get a job, like most adults. Unemployment is at an all time low and help wanted signs are everywhere. She could get a job, then move into an apartment.

That’s one option. That’s what grownups do.

Denise

Well Mattson could could get a job, like most adults. Unemployment is at an all time low and help wanted signs are everywhere. She could get a job, then move into an apartment.

That’s one option. That’s what grownups do.

john fritter

http://newsregister.com/article?articleTitle=out-on-the-street-out-in-the-heat--1501802205--26950--
In This article from August Crystal had a job and an apartment in Amity but chose to live on the street.

tagup

Interesting point John...thanks...

for me, the fact that someone voluntarily chooses to live on the street, definitely affects their credibility when she talks about "running out of options here".....

sbagwell

At the time of the earlier story, Crystal Mattson held a part-time grill job at Third Street Pizza. She had a place to stay in Amity, but no means to get back and forth on a regular basis because she is prone to frequent grand mal seizures. And she wasn't making enough, at least by her reckoning, to afford housing in Mac.
My point is, her sitution, like most actual individual human situtions, is more complicated that it might seem on the surface.
I cast no aspersions on Crystal when I note the vast majority of our homeless residents suffer from mental illness, developmental disabilities, physical disabilities, alcohol and drug additions, personality disorders, educational limitations, criminal histories and other conditins that severely limit both their housing and employment prospects. What's more, once you have fallen into such a financial hole that you have lost both transportation and housing, it's very hard to climb back out.
To secure and maintain a employment, you need housing and transportation. But to secure and maintain housing and tranportation, you need employment.
It's easy to say, "Get a job." Unfortunately, the problem runs a lot deeper than that.
I also feel compelled to reiterate that what we are facing in downtown McMinnville is a homeless problem, not an inappropriate behavior problem. Falling back on vague euphemisms simply dances around the real issue, which is demanding enough to require our full and forthright engagement.
I can see both sides.
In no way am I open to seeing downtown turned into a makeshift homeless camp. I'm not willing to let the homeless set up shop in my neighborhood, so have no right to ask some other neighborhood to shoulder that burden.
However, I do recognize we are talking about people in need here. And I think it's in the best interests of all of us to do what we can toward getting them better accommodated.
Steve

Denise

Of course it’s more complicated than saying “get a job.”

Life is difficult and messy. A struggle at times for us all.

But to play the victim mentality over and over gets old.

They want to improve their lives? That takes effort, sacrifice, and delayed gratification.

There are so many resources out there that they have to turn too, but it takes effort to do so.

I am tired of the constant fights (another one today) on 2nd Street, the aggressive panhandling, the urinating in public spaces, the crime etc.

sbagwell

Denise:
I fully agree with you on that kind of behavior. It's utterly intolerable. It's an affront to the community.
I don't agree so much on your playing the victim card comment.
We sought them out. They didn't seek us out.
I've seen very little evidence the homeless are demanding special treatment. It appears to me they are looking for nothing more than a place they can go light without being hassled.
The problem is, neither they nor I can identify much in the way of either public or private property where that is feasible.
I don't want them in my back yard and you don't want them in your back yard. Whose back yard is open to them?
As a community, I think we need, within the limits of our resources and abilities, to see what we can do to address the problem.
It's probably going to take a multitude of approaches by a multitude of public and private partners, and still fall well short of ideal. But any little bit of progress is better than none at all.
Steve

Mac Native 66

The best thing the homeless could do is walk to the library and use the restroom there.
>
Denise, you said,
"Well Mattson could could get a job, like most adults. Unemployment is at an all time low and help wanted signs are everywhere. She could get a job, then move into an apartment".
Have you checked to see how much an apartment rents for these days? $1200.00+ per month. Do any of those placing for new hires paying the county's minimum wage and offer 40 hrs a week? I doubt it very much. If you don't have the skills to work at Skyline Mobil Homes, Freelin-Wade, Cascade Steel or OMI, you're out of luck.
>
When I was working in one of the neighborhoods in NE Portland, I saw a house up for rent, for $2200.00 per month. That's why we have so much homelessness, up in Portland as well as here in Mac.

GerryH

Steve, my experience at the City Council meetings and talking with fellow downtown business owners leads me to disagree with your assertion that the focus on behaviors is "disingenuous" or that civic leaders are dancing around the "actual cause" of the problems. In my 20 years of operating a business on 3rd Street, I have encountered both homelessness and "bad behaviors". There is some correlation, but I wouldn't even say it is that high. The focus by the city on the behavioral issues is, in my understanding, very much an effort do disassociate the two; as they should be. Some of the homeless population are very respectful and civil. Some who are not homeless are beyond disrespectful, and well into the realms of antagonistic and destructive. And yes, there is some overlap.

Homelessness does not "cause" people to behave badly any more than having a home causes them to behave well. The issue of housing is being addressed separately from the issue of behavior because they are, in fact, two different issues; lumping them together is, in my opinion at least, an incorrect stereotyping. It is very much the case that the downtown has a behavioral problem. It is also very much the case that McMinnville has a homeless problem. They are not the same problem, and very much not always the same people.

GerryH

Also, contrary to the August article and Steve's comment, Crystal Mattson has never worked at 3rd Street Pizza Company.

Trafik

I am greatly relieved to discover the people who poop in my doorway might not be homeless. I was beginning to stereotype.

Jim

This is not by any means restricted to down town. Go over to the High School baseball field and look at the garbage all over the place from people camping by the park. Not only garbage but confrontation with kids while we working on the field this fall. Do we live in McMinnville Oregon or Detroit Michigan. The Police are short handed as it is and instead of worrying about making Alpine Avenue a show place or putting round abouts on Hill Rd let's pass a bond and hire some more officers to clean up the biggest problem we have in town.

Brad M

Look around. You can find a room for 4-500 dollars. McDonalds is always hiring. Get 2 jobs. It can be done.

Trafik

My home lies adjacent to a popular feeding ministry. Several days a week, the obscenities being shouted by the people walking onto the grounds of the facility which hosts the ministry remind me it's mealtime. The piles of trash and cigarette butts discarded on my front lawn by those waiting for public transit after dining are another reminder of the bad behavior practiced by some guests. And my unsecured mailbox next to the bus stop seems, to some people, to have a "free, take one" sign attached. When I (more than once) suggested to the ministry's manager that he might look into reducing the impact of the ministry on its neighbors, he asked me if I could offer proof his guests were causing the issues I addressed.

While this defense of those who already have rough lives was admirable, it was also disingenuous. The daily parade of obscenities wasn't, after all, being shouted by professional people who work in downtown offices. The trash on my lawn wasn't being discarded by folks out tasting wine. My mailbox wasn't being rifled by people who own businesses on Third Street. Pretending that poverty and need don't create disproportionate bad behavior may feel socially responsible and compassionate but it's not realistic. An honest compassionate person could admit that, yes, the issues I raised were likely (mostly) caused by traffic to-and-from the feeding ministry and, then, meaningful solutions could be explored. In short, while it was absolutely a "bad behavior issue," it was also (and more specifically) a "feeding ministry issue."

(Continued below...)

Trafik

(Continued from above...)

Similarly, the current problems in downtown McMinnville are bad behavior issues but many are also homeless issues. For years, I lived in downtown Portland where both bad behavior and homelessness were commonplace. (In my alcohol-fueled youth, I may even have contributed to the bad behavior there, now and then.) But the problems downtown Portland is now facing have reached crisis levels and, even in a tolerant and proudly compassionate city like Portland, no one is pretending that homelessness is not at the forefront of the issue. When a once-beautiful urban center like Portland is littered with trash, dotted with tent camps, reeks of urine and businesses are leaving, real solutions must be found. Vilifying the entire homeless population is dishonest, mean-spirited and not my intent. But pretending that homeless people are no more likely to discard syringes in a public park or defecate on a sidewalk than housed people is absurd.

Maybe it's just me, but McMinnville's current problems seem to have grown proportionately as the area's homeless population has increased. GerryH is correct in stating that homelessness and bad behavior are disparate issues but I think he's minimizing the overlap. Poverty and need create desperation and, frequently, bad behavior is part of that despair. Few groups experience poverty and need at the level the homeless population does. This should earn our compassion. But it should also earn our honesty because nothing will change if we can't accurately identify one of the primary causes.

GerryH

Trafik, I agree with most everything you said, and didn't mean to understate the overlap; just to say, as you acknowledged, that the issues are separate and that I don't feel it disingenuous to address them as such. I too, live very close to the "feeding ministry", and have experienced most of the same things you cite in your comments. I would say though, that I've been told by some of the homeless that not all of the people showing up at the feeding ministry are homeless; many of the trouble makers are simply there for a free meal, and to prey upon the homeless and otherwise vulnerable.

I think you nailed it in your last few sentences; that "Poverty and need create desperation and, frequently, bad behavior is part of that despair. Few groups experience poverty and need at the level the homeless population does. This should earn our compassion. But it should also earn our honesty because nothing will change if we can't accurately identify one of the primary causes."

I would point out that the homelessness aspect has been identified and acknowledged and is being acted upon at least as vigorously as the behaviors component; the city has both an Affordable Housing Task Force and a Homelessness Subcomittee addressing these issues, formed prior to the establishment of the Safety Task Force.

As far as calling out things as "disingenuous" (Steve's comments, not yours), it occurs to me that it seems disingenuous on the part of the NewsRegister article to omit these efforts from an article that is focused on homeless people and, to my reading, portrays their needs as unaddressed.

Trafik

Just so we're clear: I did not intend to equate homelessness with feeding ministry participation. If I'm not mistaken, the bulk of those who visit the feeding ministry I referenced are housed but find themselves in need of food, fellowship or both. Homeless diners are a minority.

My intent was to connect need with bad behavior and to point out:
• that many of McMinnville's current problems are echoed on a much larger scale in Portland;
• that Portland hasn't wasted a lot of time attempting to separate homeless bad behaviors from general bad behaviors;
• and that Portland leaders admit immediate action is required to move forward.

While behaviors like aggressive panhandling, public urination/defecation, public intoxication, littering, loitering (to the point it impedes commerce) and unlawful camping (that is, outside designated campgrounds) might be practiced by any segment of the population, most recent examples of such acts locally seem to be committed by those experiencing homelessness. Focusing solely on eliminating disruptive behavior without acknowledging homelessness as one giant root cause would demonstrate a profound timidity and lack of leadership among local officials.

Fortunately, GerryH, you point out a city task force and subcommittee are addressing the issue, hopefully coordinating their efforts and working together with other city leaders. Too much is at stake to screw this up.

GerryH

Hopefully so. You're right, Trafik; there is, indeed, much at stake.

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