The council knows that panhandling itself is not illegal…it’s just where it’s done. And in Newport the most frustrating intersections for motorists are at Highway 20 at 101. The other one is 101 at the Fred Meyer signal light. Again, it’s not illegal to donate money to a homeless person. It is illegal to stop in a travel lane and hold up traffic behind you just to slip a five dollar bill to someone in need.
A number of citizens testified before the council that panhandling can be life or death for homeless people. It’s death if they can’t ask for money. No money, no place to live, no job. The council seemed inclined to pass a new city ordinance to make it illegal to panhandle except where the donor driver pulls off into a parking space and hands over the cash. But of course few drivers will go to that length to donate.
But many homeless advocates warned the council that passing such a strict ordinance would make it harder for panhandlers to get money. And they convinced the council, on a 6 to 1 vote, to put off considering the ordinance until perhaps this spring.
On another homeless front, the city council directed City Manager Spencer Nebel to work with homeless advocates, including churches and non-profits, to find a building and convert it into either a warming shelter for the cold winter nights or as a permanent shelter where it would be like a free hotel for homeless people while they look for a job and get back on their feet again. Several homeless advocates, including Tracy Flowers said the biggest obstacle for homeless people getting a job is not having a permanent address. Once they have an address, like at a homeless shelter, where they can get their mail, it gets a lot easier to land a job.
In the end, the advocates and the city council were in agreement, that even though a homeless person may be ready and able to work, he/she needs an address and a roof over their head. City Manager Spencer Nebel said he’s investigating an approach to creating a homeless shelter by learning about what the city of Lebanon did in finding a location with the help of a lot of good hearted non-profit agencies who specialize in homeless issues.
The city council voted to to pursue a building that could act like a long term homeless shelter, but maybe only a few overnighters.
Nebel told the council he’ll get right on the challenge and start working together with homeless advocates in the Newport area. Tracy Flowers thanked the council for taking the first step in helping to take some of the pain out of being homeless and for helping good people down on their luck, get their lives back.
All this comes back for council review later this month.