Saturday, November 08, 2014


Civil Beat: City May Scrap Plan for Sand Island Homeless Camp

The costs of appeasing state concerns about potential soil contamination may not be worth it, Ember Shinn, the city’s managing director, said Friday.—Civil Beat report

by Larry Geller

ap·pease (verb): \ə-ˈpēz\ : to make (someone) pleased or less angry by giving or saying something desired

Appease? The state Department of Health is not requiring anything unreasonable. It’s not a question of either pleasing them or making them less angry.

The city should not have chosen that Sand Island location in the first place.

Advocates and this blog pointed out the city’s errors from the very beginning. The site is adjacent to a known dump location that was in relatively unregulated use for 65 years. Clearly, testing would be needed to see if the location is safe, and the city should have done that up front rather than have the public press them to do what is necessary. The city should have checked with the Department of Health and performed any required testing before proposing the site.

As it is, the Board of Land and Natural Resources granted the city a permit conditioned on meeting health testing as specified by the DOH. If not for that, who knows, the city may have tried to put people into the area without any testing.

Advocate Kathryn Xian not only expressed her concerns, but she provided easily available documentation as soon as the city’s plan became known.

So what was the city’s reaction? They proposed to cover the site with asphalt.

But asphalt itself is not suitable for locating individuals and families in tents. They should have known that, and if they didn’t, again, they should have done their homework (also known as “due diligence”) before proposing that solution.

The city did not put very much thought into the Sand Island proposal. At a community meeting neighbors expressed a variety of concerns related to the city’s ability to run the open-air “shelter” or tent city. Xian pointed to the layout map and noted that it was unsafe to require women and children at the family camp area to walk through the men’s area to get to the port-a-potties. The city should have thought about that also. The plan appeared to be hastily thrown together.

Now, as Civil Beat reports, it will be very expensive to test the area for contaminants, and asphalt has been ruled out as a living surface.

Asked if the city was looking to scrap the project entirely, Shinn said, “I can’t say that isn’t a consideration. I cannot say that we aren’t worried about that because the price tag is almost a million dollars now and we think that we can do a lot more with $1 million.”

[Civil Beat, City May Scrap Plan for Sand Island Homeless Camp, 11/7/2014]

Yes, one thing that the city can do with the $1 million is: Housing First. It’s the evidence-based solution that they don’t seem to understand.


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