305 homeless camp requires action by city | Letter to the editor

To the editor:

When is the city of Bainbridge Island going to do something about the homeless camp on Highway 305 near the intersection of High School Road? It is a blight on our city and it is unacceptable. If we allow one, it encourages others.

The number-one responsibility of government is to provide for the health, safety, and sanitation of all of our citizens, including the homeless. Unregulated camps have no sanitary facilities or garbage collection — they accumulate litter, food waste, feces, and drug needles. They are a fire hazard and a breeding ground for rats and disease. Where is the health department?

The government also has a responsibility to protect the environment and to ensure that public lands are not misused. Campgrounds are not permitted under our zoning code and they don’t belong in the public right-of-way! Where is our code enforcement?

The homeless problem is not that difficult to fix, but it takes political will. Here are some suggestions:

• Form a task force to come up with policy recommendations.

• Have the city council vote to ratify the recommendations into law.

• Provide a legitimate place where homeless people can live without getting arrested for drug or alcohol possession.

• Provide portable toilets, showers, and garbage collection at the site.

• Provide tents or tiny houses so that the site doesn’t look like a trash heap.

• Provide counseling to get homeless people back on their feet.

• Engage community groups to provide social services, tents, or tiny houses.

• Get funding from philanthropic organizations, churches, or advocacy groups so that the money doesn’t have to come from tax dollars.

• Require homeless people to give something back to the community in exchange for living here.

• Provide an incentive for homeless people to improve their situation and move into permanent housing.

• As an alternative, buy a recycled ferry. One recently sold on Bainbridge Island for $250,000 — it could have housed 100 people comfortably with heat, toilets, and a galley!

We pay high property taxes for the privilege of living here — we should expect the city council to do its job!

Food for thought: During World War II, the Army built temporary housing for 6 million men, and they did it almost overnight — our government had the political will. But here’s the catch: They were housed in barracks, not in market-rate condominiums!

STEVEN GRASSIA

Bainbridge Island

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