I don’t like the sight of people sleeping on sidewalks — it’s a disgrace to our town. However, I don’t understand the city ordinance forbidding sleeping on city property. The shelter for homeless families run by the Family Support Center is full nightly. The women’s shelter run by Sidewalk at local churches is limited to November through February. The Salvation Army’s men’s shelter denial list is a mile long. Neither Salvation Army nor Sidewalk will accept minors, and at this time there is no shelter for homeless youth in the county. So what are all these people to do? How will this ordinance be enforced? Jail people for sleeping outside? I thought there wasn’t enough jail space for those who commit actual crimes. We want less people sleeping on the street? Create more affordable housing! We are worried about public urination? Put up a few portable toilets. And as for the dogs: Are the companionship, protection and warmth dogs afford yet another privilege reserved for those who have homes?
I have lived in Olympia for 26 years, and in all the time I have spent downtown, day and night, I have never been attacked, mugged, or even harrassed beyond being asked for money. Based on my experience, downtown Olympia is a safe place. What would make it even better is more of us spending time downtown, frequenting downtown businesses and maybe even getting to know some of the folks we’re so eager to judge and exclude.