Residents and those who provide services to homeless adults in Puyallup gave public comment Thursday in regard to the Puyallup Task Force on Homelessness recommendations that aim to mitigate impacts downtown.
The task force was organized earlier this year and given a mandate from the Puyallup City Council to identify the current impacts of chronic or adult homelessness and to recommend measures that would reduce impacts.
Some include establishing a policy among shelter programs that seasonally or permanently ban individuals who repeatedly offend; setting a zero-tolerance policy for alcohol and drug use on shelter sites; encouraging development of more permanent housing for homelessness populations that cause the greatest impact; and encouraging the establishment of a drop-in center that would be open every day and staffed with social services on education, employment, mental health and chemical dependency services.
Ted Brackman, who began the Freezing Nights program eight years ago and the Homeless Coalition 12 years ago, took issue with the tone of the language in the task force’s draft document.
“This document addresses homeless people and churches and programs providing services as the problem,” Brackman said. “But it doesn’t address the big elephant in the room. It misses the question, ‘What are the negative impacts of current systemic city policies on people who are homeless?’ ”
Brackman emphasized that when people are homeless in Puyallup, they have no place to be.
“Where do they go?” Brackman asked. “That message that the city is giving citywide is that they are not welcome. That is abuse. That robs them of their dignity.”
Brackman said his question represents “a glaring omission.”
Eric Renz, who is an overnight host of Freezing Nights at First Presbyterian Church in downtown Puyallup, said banning people who are homeless from shelters is not the answer.
“Putting them back out on the streets would only exacerbate the negative impacts to the downtown,” Renz said. “We need to figure out ways to ramp up services to help people with dependency issues and mental conditions rather than thinking about throwing them out.”
Sister Pat Michalek, the director of St. Francis House, said she supports developing drop-in centers that would encourage people who are homeless to volunteer in the community.
“I know that some of these recommendations will lead to good changes in the lives of these people,” Michalek said.
Zac Green, a task force member, said the group didn’t intentionally omit information from the draft document. He said it would be a good idea for city council to put together another task force that takes a wider scope on the issue.
Puyallup Police Chief Bryan Jeter, and a task force member, said the mandate from the city council did not come with a set of instructions.
The task force will consider public comments and present final recommendations to the council at 6:30 p.m. Aug. 13.Reporter Andrew Fickes can be reached at 253-552-7001 or by email at Andrew.email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter, @herald_andrew.