PORT ANGELES – The advantages of permanent housing over safe-haven housing highlighted a general election forum this week between two candidates for Port Angeles city council.
First-term incumbent Kate Dexter, a specialist in the Peninsula College nursing program, and challenger John Procter, a retired veterinarian, discussed the issue on Tuesday via Zoom at the Port Angeles Business Association event. .
Procter reiterated his goal, as he did in previous forums, of building a day-night shelter like Auburn’s, citing “the vagrancy and drug culture that thrives on our streets” and warning that Port Angeles is heading in the same downward spiral as Seattle. and King County.
Procter said the four incumbents running for re-election, including Dexter, had not sufficiently addressed the issue.
He said his two plans include “a reactive and inexpensive plan – see a problem and find solutions” and a “proactive” effort developed by Kent Hay, administrator of Auburn’s homeless outreach program.
It includes an ordinance banning camping on public property and the creation of a day and night refuge.
Procter said he had researched buildings in Port Angeles that could house the facility.
Dexter, the council-appointed mayor, said some elements of the proposal might be achievable.
“I also think it’s important to remember that housing is the ultimate solution, having enough housing,” she said.
“A shelter is not a dwelling,” Dexter continued.
“More recently I would like to point out that we have used our [American Rescue Plan Act] funds specifically intended to support [the] Peninsula Behavioral Health project and a project near Shane Park for the Peninsula Housing Authority.
“It’s just a really big problem that will take some time to resolve.”
Procter said mental health issues and drugs are at the root of homelessness.
“Housing will not cure most of these people, otherwise they would go to housing and they would still have drug problems and maybe mental problems,” he said.
“They’re going to have to be pushed, so to speak. This program developed by Mr. Kent Hays, it pushes them.
The candidates discussed what the city council could do to clean up the homeless settlements.
“We have to make camping uncomfortable for them,” said Procter.
Dexter said city officials recently discussed the issue on site with residents of the Peabody Creek area.
“We are worried about this,” she said. “I think the long term solution is housing, and I know it gets frustrating for people because it’s not an immediate solution,” she said.
“I think partnerships are going to be the key to a solution for this,” Dexter said, adding that trying “to move as many people, at a minimum, from the outdoors homeless to the protected homeless would be. an important part of the solution. ”
Procter cited the 2019 closure of the Tempest Supportive Housing Center on North Albert Street as an example of failed housing.
“These people need to be pushed to a resource center,” he said.
Dexter responded that she supports permanent supportive housing, “meaning you have a roof over your head and there are some services that go with that to help you be successful,” she said. .
She added that if Tempest ever reopened it would need on-site supervisors and tenants would need mental health and other support services.
“Mayor Dexter just reiterated basically what I said about the Kent Hays program in Auburn,” Procter replied.
When asked if more needs to be done to allow the police to enforce the no-camping rules, Dexter praised the city police for doing a good job doing what they can to prevent camping.
“I have to admit that I haven’t read our current code in the recent past to find out exactly what the rules are, and I should have done that before that, knowing that we often get these kinds of questions, so I’m going to Commit to doing it after that, “she said.” We’re working on a rewrite of code, so it might look a little different. ”
Dexter said Procter’s plan could provide a solution, but added that a small minority will still be homeless outdoors.
Procter, when asked what it means to make camping uncomfortable for homeless people, said that in Auburn they have 48 hours to move as first notice and can potentially be charged with criminal trespassing.
“They can either participate in the program or leave town if they want to live outside,” said Procter. “If you want to camp, go to another city, not our city. ”
Dexter said she doesn’t favor a solution that creates a problem for someone else.
“I have a problem with the criminalization of homelessness when we do not have a viable solution for everyone at the moment,” she added.
In an interview, Hays said on Wednesday that the town of Auburn had contracted with the town’s food bank to run the day and night shelter in a rented building that includes a therapeutic court operated by the District Court of King County.
The cost of the Auburn program was not available from Hays on Wednesday.
Procter said he didn’t know how much his plan would cost Port Angeles.
Applicants also touched on workforce housing, airbnbs regulations, potential fees for owners of long-vacant plots, and described how they are different as applicants.
A YouTube recording of the forum can be found here.
Senior Editor Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected].