GRANTS PASS – Citing “care and compassion” for those who are in need of aid, members of the Grants Pass City Council made a request for assistance from local religious organizations and service providers who have traditionally served to render assistance to the homeless population to help address the problem here.
“We all know about the homeless. We all care about the homeless. There is compassion here on the council,” said Councilor Valerie Lovelace at the council’s regular meeting Wednesday, Dec. 2.
Prior to the regular meeting, the council met with legal representatives in executive session to receive a briefing about the status and details of an injunction regarding a recent legal ruling on enforcement of the city’s illegal camping ordinance. As a result of the ruling, the city has agreed to an injunction allowing people to rest in city parks, except Reinhart Volunteer Park, 7 p.m. to 7:30 a.m. during the months of October to March.
During the public portion of the meeting, City Manager Aaron Cubic delivered a presentation regarding an unimproved portion of Riverside Park that has recently been chosen as a place to rest by multiple individuals. Activity at the park has become a source of concern regarding health and safety, sanitation, litter, drug use, and other illicit activities.
Several council members reported visiting the park area and a neighboring business who has concerns about the activities that have been observed and reported in the park.
“We’re talking 30-40 people who are finding themselves in a bad place,” said Councilor Joel King, who reported visiting the location multiple times to assess the situation.
Earlier this week, members of the city’s Department of Public Safety delivered 24-hour notices to those who were resting there that they needed to move. Per the terms of the injunction, notices include information about available services to help those who are seeking assistance.
Director of Public Safety Warren Hensman reported his officers have assisted multiple contacts by directing them to locations designed to provide those in need with assistance with shelter, food, and counseling.
“We’re just performing our job. We are doing what we are expected to do,” said Hensman, who expressed pride in his staff for using compassion and care while contacting individuals at the park.
“One of the things we can do on a staff level is continue to deal with things with compassion,” said Cubic.
Cubic’s presentation included details about the costs associated with providing health and safety services to the undeveloped portion of the park. Councilors had concerns about those costs and the liability associated with providing amenities there.
Councilor Lovelace explained that it is not the responsibility of city government to provide housing and services of that nature.
“We as a community have a problem, and it needs to be dealt with and worked on as a community,” said Lovelace.
Councilor Rick Riker echoed Lovelace’s comments asking service providers to seek out those in need and offer their assistance through various available programs.
City staff has identified multiple local providers and information is delivered with each notice to homeless individuals about the services offered by the Gospel Rescue Mission, Fikso Family House, Hearts With A Mission, Women’s Crisis Support Team, and United Community Action Network.
“We welcome you to step forward and help us with this problem,” said Lovelace.