By David Krogh
Mayor Ted Wheeler, Police Chief Danielle Outlaw and several East Precinct police officials attended a public safety forum in Lents November 5, with the intent of hearing citizen concerns about gun violence and other crime issues.
Besides hearing that reports of shots fired were up 22 percent since the previous quarter and that additional police presence is being provided to the area, most attendees went off the anticipated script and focused on issues with the homeless.
Virtually all complained that both City and County responses were inadequate to address this problem. The potential loss via sale and demolition of the County’s multi-million dollar, never used Wapato jail was a prime concern.
“That site could have become a temporary community shelter and helped to get many of the homeless both needed services and shelter. Instead, they’re sprawled all over the place in our neighborhood,” cited one person.
Others mentioned the City is actively removing many of the homeless in other areas who are blocking businesses and sidewalks. “But not in Lents,” said another resident.
Chief Outlaw responded that police often get caught in the middle. Either they respond too little or too much in the public’s opinion. The bottom line, however, is that people want the City and County to take direct action and to stop stalling.
Several residents expressed that the current reluctance not to provide additional temporary transitional housing and focus more on permanent housing will not help those individuals and families on the streets the closer it gets to winter.