Friday, December 14, 2012

CITY HALL EYEBALL: Allen blames food, bathrooms for 'nefarious' homeless activity

Posted By on Fri, Dec 14, 2012 at 12:44 PM

click to enlarge cityhalleyeball.jpg

While no for-sure decisions came out of yesterday's Park Board discussion of the Under The Freeway Stakepark, one thing was clear. The skaters feel like they're being cast in the same light as the homeless people who camp under I-90, and they say that's not a good thing. The Board agrees.

In a presentation about the park, skater Greg Connolly told city officials he understands their worries — among them, "indigents" and drug activity — about the area near 4th and McClellan downtown. Connolly said park users "don't have anything against" homeless people, but they're getting an unfair reputation.

The spot is well-known as a place where homeless people camp — and are subsequently kicked out by the police — and several local nonprofits serve meals in the area. Some are temporary church projects, local advocates say, but Blessings Under the Bridge has been serving a meal there every Wednesday for six years.

That launched Councilman Mike Allen (you remember him from the panhandling ordinance) into promise-making mode.

"I will look into those providing services underneath the interstate area because that right there is empowering folks to do a lot of the nefarious activities that you guys are being associated with wrongfully," Allen told a small group of skaters gathered in Council Chambers. "The other component is I noticed this week that the city also put in six porta-potties under there, which is going to exacerbate the problem, so I give you my word I'll look into that as soon as we're done here."

Meanwhile, Council President Ben Stuckart has said he supports Ralph and Becky Harvey, locals who are trying to start a tent city where homeless people can camp just across the street from the skatepark.

"I'm totally supportive and understand benefits of tent cities. I totally get it," Stuckart told the Inlander late last month. Still, he says he doesn't think he has the support on Council and the couple would be better off searching for a private landowner to host a tent city.

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