Tigard assesses homeless issue firsthand
On the heels of the formation of a newly formed task force to look at homelessness issues in Tigard, a recent assessment by police shows that providing basic needs — access to electricity and bathrooms — may help reduce litter and address other immediate needs as well.
In August, the Tigard City Council approved the formation of a Community Homelessness Assessment & Response Team (also known as CHART) to look at long term issues related to homeless individuals in the city.
In a follow-up meeting Tuesday, Sept. 14, Tigard Police Chief Kathy McAlpine said the city recently conducted a weeklong assessment of the community regarding issues related to homelessness.
Those involved with the assessment included both police administrators and officers as well as a member of the Washington County Sheriff's Office's Mental Health Response Team, a group of trained clinicians who often accompany deputies on mental health calls, according to Tigard Police Cmdr. Robert Rogers, who heads up the department's patrol division.
They told the team to be as visible as possible, recording any type of nuisance calls that included public littering and code violation calls.
Rogers said the group not only looked at the downtown core area but the entire city as well.
"We knew the areas we wanted to focus on because they are frequently used by unhoused community members," said Rogers, adding, "We didn't want to focus on encampments in this phase. It's just too big of a topic."
One of the high points during the visual assessment surveys was that police did not find any homeless children, Rogers said, and also discovered that the unhoused individuals they came in contact with didn't seem to fear Tigard police, noting he "didn't think they had the dread that they do in other communities."
However, he said they did see a number of people sleeping in cars, something he expects to see in greater numbers following the expiration of a statewide moratorium on eviction notices for no cause.
Rogers said he didn't think issues of homelessness are unique to Tigard, saying they prevalent along most every major corridor in the area.
He also suggested that the hiring of a person, someone along the lines of a park ranger, who might be able to engage homeless individuals in a positive matter.
Part of the problem the city encounters occurs when residents call over concerns about an individual sleeping on a sidewalk, a call that could bring police, fire and ambulance personnel to a situation where an individual is simply sunbathing.
Rogers said providing something as simple as access to bathrooms, an electrical power source or trash disposal makes a huge difference in creating better outcomes for homeless individuals.
Meanwhile, McAlpine said, Tigard and Washington County are finalizing an agreement under which the city would be part of a yearlong encampments pilot project for homeless individuals.
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