By Jeb Bladine • President / Publisher • 

Jeb Bladine: Plenty of questions about homeless law

The homelessness roller-coaster wild ride continues.

McMinnville’s forbearance of homeless camping hit the wall with passage of Ordinance No. 5064. Beginning June 27, it is a crime to camp on public property in the extended urban renewal district surrounding downtown; in any city park or parking lot; or in any residential neighborhood.

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Jeb Bladine is president and publisher of the News-Register.

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Homeless camping is permitted on public property in commercial or industrial zones outside the downtown, and then only between 9:30 p.m. and 6:30 a.m.

There are cheers from people with no tolerance for sidewalk and streetside tent/RV camps. There also are questions recognizing controversies are far from resolved.

What will evolve in administrative rules that “the city manager may adopt?” How will confiscated tents, RVs and other camping paraphernalia be managed? What kind of confrontations might occur between authorities and homeless people? Will there be legal actions as in other cities that enacted crackdowns on homeless camping?

What happens in winter, when ordinance time limits comprise only a portion of freezing weather periods? Will the city establish a permanent homeless campground and, if so, with what public response?

What about people such as John and Pat Crowder, featured in a story this week as responsible citizens who lived in McMinnville for a decade before suffering a no-cause eviction two years ago? Where are the programs and caseworkers and resources to help local, responsible homeless citizens?

On the flip side, Crowder himself spoke about the deterioration of life in McMinnville homeless encampments, such as along Dustin Court. “Now, it’s full of tweakers, and they’re giving everyone a bad name. You don’t see garbage piled up in front of my place.”

For those not current with slang, “tweakers” refers to people using stimulants like amphetamine and methamphetamine. Those erratic users are dangerous to themselves and others, and perhaps local enforcement of drug laws has been less than adequate in our homeless campgrounds.

Not to be too critical of local police, who have faced challenges related to the spread of homeless camping, the complex Ninth Circuit Court ruling, indecision by city leaders and an angry public. Those officers will have their hands full enforcing the new ordinance, and I don’t envy them their role in this continuing saga.

While rightfully rousting tweakers, they also will expel John Crowder, who said simply, “This RV is our price range at the moment, and they’re kicking us plum out of here. There ain’t no place for us.”

Jeb Bladine can be reached at jbladine@newsregister.com or 503-687-1223.

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