September 2019

I have worked hard to find a suitable site for one of the City’s eight Rehousing Shelters - a site with 100 beds that provides our unhoused neighbors with access to medical care, mental health services, employment services, housing assistance, and most importantly a safe environment in which they can get back on their feet.

Tuesday night, after hours of public testimony, many community meetings, and many frank conversations, I believe we have a path forward to address some of the challenges around homelessness. My colleagues and I approved a funding plan to move forward on two shelters: on X Street between Oak Park and Curtis Park in my Council District, and on Meadowview Way at the City-owned Service Complex in Councilmember Larry Carr's district.

It was an intense and emotional meeting. Both shelter locations drew criticism for being 'too close' to kids, residents, and neighborhoods. Many voiced frustration about unsheltered people on public sidewalks, parks, and private businesses and front yards without any recourse. The bottom line however, is the safety of our neighborhoods and businesses, housed or unhoused.

I was heartened by those neighbors and organizations who came out to support and insist that the City do something. Our lessons from running the Railroad Avenue shelter have told us much about operating more effective shelters. And although the City is not in the “shelter business,” we simply cannot turn away those in need, who are housing insecure, when we have the ability to do something.

We approved the X Street shelter on a 7-2 vote, Meadowview on a 6-3 vote. We approved the shelters under the following conditions: that the 100-bed Meadowview shelter serve women and children exclusively; and that we enhance enforcement around the shelter areas - to prohibit camping and street feedings around the shelter, keep the areas around the shelter pristine, and enforce a zero-tolerance policy for drug sales and use around the shelter. We also asked that staff expand services provided by our Downtown Streets Teams, and that staff provide regular updates to Council on shelter operations and outcomes.

This is an action that must be taken, this is a vulnerable population that needs to be served – before winter when it’s too late. This is the first step; my hope is that we will all take this step together and that we will continue to have the right conversations so that we can do this the right way.

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- Jay



May 2019

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