By editorial board • 

City should welcome county into parking program discussion

There’s nothing black and white about Renee Zipser-Luckart’s personal contribution to easing local homelessness. Her case is full of complications and contradictions. Nonetheless, it raises some issues well worth our attention and suggests some responses needing our support.

The irony seems inescapable.

At a time when the city of McMinnville is trying to move two makeshift RV camps from residential neighborhoods to more suitable surroundings, Yamhill County is trying to rout three of RVs from Zipser-Luckart’s 24-acre tract near Hopewell. That suggests the city and county are at loggerheads in their approach to RV dwellers who aren’t welcome in commercial parks and would otherwise be homeless.

However, it’s not nearly as simple as it might seem on the surface. In fact, both the city and county are trying to address homelessness in socially and politically palatable ways. As always, the devil is in the details.

Eugene has established a state and national model with its Overnight Camping Program, which caters to people desperate enough to make their homes in cars, RVs, campers, tent trailers, tiny homes and even huts or tents. McMinnville is hoping to emulate that, but hasn’t invited Yamhill County into the conversation, and that needs to happen.

Eugene’s program dates back almost two decades. Management and oversight are provided by the St. Vincent de Paul Society of Lane County under a longstanding contract.

St. Vincent screens both those seeking help and those offering to provide it.

The latter includes members of residential neighborhoods as well as churches, businesses and private parties with large parking lots or grounds available. Urban subdivision dwellers are limited to one guest, while institutions are allowed up to six.

Hosts are required to provide restroom and trash service. They are forbidden to charge any rent or fee.

Zipser-Luckart, a retired parole and probation officer, found her tenants through Craigslist. She doesn’t provide sewer, water or trash service, and charges them $450 a month in rent.

In the county’s eyes, that makes her the operator of an unlicensed and unregistered RV park, in addition to the violator of an ordinance limiting rural properties to one RV. It says her only solution is turning her tenants into caretakers, which requires a permit costing $1,300 initially and $98 a year thereafter.

In Lane County, the county board of supervisors voted 4-1 last year to establish a car-camping program of its own, also under contract oversight by St. Vincent de Paul. The county has established its first 10-site camp on a River Road tract owned by the Lane Transit District.

It may have taken the two 20 years to join forces, but it represents a development worth emulating. Interestingly, many residents of the River Road area supported siting of the camp — an attitude we would be surprised to see here.

Yamhill County has a longstanding and strongly held commitment to combating homelessness. There is every reason to think it would prove a supportive, empathetic partner, in the mold of its sister county to the south.


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