Editor, the Advocate:
Thank you, Morgan Theophil and the Victoria Advocate, for your thoughtful and balanced coverage of the recently proposed “anti-camping ordinance.” I would like to explain my opposition to the ordinance.
This ordinance is not really about camping. The ordinance would make it a crime to sleep on public property. The proposed ordinance is about one homeless person. One. There are over a hundred homeless persons living in our community. Why would one homeless person create the need to rush through a new city ordinance? This homeless person chose the wrong neighborhood. She chose an affluent neighborhood, the Old Victoria neighborhood. My neighborhood. The neighborhood is the home of professionals, doctors, lawyers and a city councilman. Where this homeless person chose to live cannot be separated from this ordinance. Many of my neighbors oppose the ordinance. We understand and appreciate why our neighbors do not want a homeless person living in our neighborhood.
The people who are in favor of this ordinance are good, caring people. Homeless people are unsightly. Having a person living in an area where there are no public sanitary facilities has obvious unpleasant results.
Everyone agrees it is not good to have people living on the streets. We all agree the person should not be living on the street in our neighborhood, or any other neighborhood. We are all sympathetic to the concerns of our neighbors about this homeless person. The disagreement is how to deal with the problem. There are other ways to handle the problem that do not make it a crime to sleep in public areas that are more effective. There are already laws against trespassing on private property, urinating or defecating in public and creating a public nuisance.
Leaders of most of the organizations our community entrust to address homelessness spoke at the meeting in opposition to the ordinance. Speakers included leaders of Mid-Coast Family Services, the Victoria Homeless Coalition and the Salvation Army. These people have special knowledge when it comes to addressing homelessness. A majority of the council chose to ignore these recommendations.
It is widely accepted that most chronically homeless persons deal with mental illness. The person who is the subject of this ordinance deals with mental illness. Chief of Police Craig warned the council of the problems and possible legality of jailing a mentally ill homeless person.
We share a common goal of getting homeless people off the streets. It can be done. Mayor McCoy’s proposal that the council take some time to study the problem and work to solve it together makes sense.
Jim Cole, Victoria