By editorial board • 

Despite reports, all is not peaceful on Dustin Court

All is peace and harmony among the people living along Dustin Court, suggests John Larsen, the interim director of Yamhill Community Action Partnership: A sprawling homeless camp right outside the agency’s door isn’t much trouble.

McMinnville police paint a similarly rosy picture.

Sure, police still respond to Dustin Court frequently, but Capt. Rhonda Jaasko said many of those calls don’t come from the people living there. They come from other local residents, whose concerns can be swiftly addressed.

Sorry. We’re not buying it.

There are concerns we’ve heard anonymously that officials have yet to discuss in public, including the siphoning of gas from YCAP vehicles, feces on the building grounds and more.

Employees won’t talk candidly because, like most people in organizations, they tell us they are forbidden to speak openly to the press without clearing it with higher-ups. For the most part, information originates from only one or two designated representatives.

This is even more true at law enforcement agencies, where the chain of command is forged in iron. It’s also the ways of the county government, and increasingly, the city of McMinnville.

It’s easy to see why officials want to limit negative reports from Dustin Court.

For one, YCAP has been searching for a new executive director since Jeff Sargent left in June. Despite a nationwide search, the job remains vacant.
A new hire will immediately deal with a homeless camp over which the agency has no oversight. The more problematic issues resulting can make recruitment more difficult.

The first RV dwellers moved from Doran Drive to Dustin Court last year after outraged Doran Drive dwellers began repeatedly storming the city council.
There are no traditional homes on Dustin Court. Plus, YCAP exists to serve the poor and destitute, so agency officials would look like hypocrites if they slapped the hands reaching out to then.

Residents of Dustin Court picked a very convenient nesting spot. The police want to keep negative situations from escalating. YCAP officials want to avoid a public relations and job recruitment nightmare. As a result, everyone has to grit their teeth and pretend to be friends while very real problems go unspoken in public by everyone except maybe a few outspoken homeless people.

No, we don’t believe the residents of Dustin Court masterminded this move. That’s far too much plotting for people so busy trying to survive from one day to the next.

However, between the cheerful images offered by people with titles, and the filth-ridden anarchy whispered secretly, there is a reality that cannot be ignored.
As always, when it comes to complex issues like homelessness, we are short on solid answers.

Maybe YCAP officials could do more than co-exist with the homeless encampment at their stoop. Maybe, working with other agencies, they could find a way to exert genuine oversight. We don’t know.
What we know is problems aren’t solved by pretending they don’t exist.