Team to look at homeless issues in downtown Tigard
The Tigard City Council has agreed to revamp an old task force — complete with a new name and a specific mission — to look at issues related to homelessness in downtown Tigard.
The action comes over growing concerns about the homeless population from some downtown business owners and residents.
"Since the beginning of this year, we've received 74 calls, emails, social media comments from business owners, and other community members, concerned about the uptick in visible houselessness (in) downtown Tigard and its impacts," said Halsted Bernard, Tigard Public Library director.
As a result, two listening sessions led by Bernard were held in August, attended by seven business owners, the mayor and the police chief to discuss homelessness and its impacts on property, customers and employees of Tigard businesses.
Some issues, such as trash, vandalism and blocked sidewalks, are addressed by municipal code, Bernard said. One recommendation that came forward was for a community service officer and a city code compliance officer to re-evaluate the impacts on downtown caused by homelessness.
"All of the listening session attendees agreed that it was time for us to reconvene a group like the Task Force for the Homeless to help determine our community's immediate and long-term needs," said Bernard.
During the City Council's Aug. 24 meeting, Bernard led a discussion on the city's response to homelessness throughout the city, proposing the formation of Tigard CHART, an acronym that stands for Community Homelessness Assessment & Response Team. The team would pick up where the former Tigard Task Force for the Homeless, which last met in 2017, left off.
Bernard said the city convened an internal assessment team on Aug. 11, which reviewed past recommendations from a past Tigard Task Force for the Homeless and looked at what has been implemented around the city and what hasn't been done yet.
"We have determined that our next steps will be to conduct a gap analysis of services that are available, and those that are needed in our community, and from that, develop a six-month milestone plan," said Bernard.
The new CHART team will include City Councilor Jeanette Shaw; members of the business community, including the Tigard Chamber of Commerce and Tigard Downtown Alliance; people who are currently homeless themselves; and city employees.
The team will assess what is happening downtown and make recommendations, Bernard said.
Among the broader-ranging issues will be a discussion involving so-called wraparound services for the homeless, such as the creation of tiny villages, sleeping pods, safe lots, restrooms, mobile showers and more.
During the Aug. 24 meeting, Councilor John Goodhouse said he would like to see more help for downtown business owners, including the possibility of adding extra patrols or providing lighting on trails downtown. Goodhouse said business owners have told him they don't feel safe walking on trails after dark.
"I know people are talking about having to clean feces off from around their storefronts or back-end parts, or cleaning up areas as well, so as we go forward looking at that, there's a whole lot of the other services that we're going to have to need to look at providing or taking care of," said Goodhouse.
Goodhouse, who has already announced he plans to run for mayor next year, said that while Tigard needs to take care of those without homes, "there's also the other part of the community that is just getting really anxious, and starting to get upset, as far as a lot of things aren't being taken care of."
Tigard Police Chief Kathy McAlpine said she is supportive of CHART. But she also said it was clear from the listening sessions how many are frustrated about the downtown homelessness situation downtown, even to the point of "wanting to take matters into their own hands."
However, the chief said she also heard that future actions shouldn't be a police-led effort.
"We heard from about seven business owners who want enforcement action, but I know of many others who don't want police interaction, don't believe it's appropriate and would not support it," said McAlpine.
Still, since entryways of businesses are private property, owners can ask police to remove individuals and police will comply, she said.
Councilor Liz Newton said she has been contacted by community members who are concerned about the behavior of homeless individuals in downtown Tigard but don't want to call the police.
"To a person, they're very compassionate, but what they're calling me about is behavior that they see that they don't think it's appropriate," said Newton. "One gentleman said, 'I'm no longer going to walk my grandchildren on the (Fanno Creek) Trail. Three times of seeing feces and needles, and I'm done, and I'm not really interested in doing that anymore.'"
The council also discussed looking at a possible ordinance related to sleeping downtown. Mayor Jason Snider reminded councilors that federal courts have ruled outright bans are unlawful. However, there might be ways to ensure that individuals aren't sleeping downtown during daytime hours, city officials have said.
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