Several people representing the homeless population addressed the Centralia City Council late Tuesday in response to complaints voiced at an earliercouncil meeting by business owners who said they’ve experienced problems with the growing homeless population.
The complaints centered around people using the streets as bathrooms, vomiting and performing sexual acts in downtown Centralia.
A man speaking on behalf of the homeless people in Centralia said the problem is larger than “people peeing, pooping and fornicating.”
“This is a problem in every town. We are no different,” said the man who signed his name on the speaker-request form as James Lovelady.
He proposed bathrooms or a portable toilet in downtown Centralia and said the concerns voiced earlier could be blamed on people who frequent bars in the area.
“If you provide places for us to go to the bathroom, then we'll use them,” he said. “That’s what we were taught as kids.”
Ralph Carr, one of the organizers of the Hub Mission’s Severe Weather Shelter, said he did not believe the population served by the shelter is causing the problems described at a previous council meeting.
“If it was our folks, we would have addressed it,” he said.
The Severe Weather Shelter reached a new record of 80 operating nights owing to low temperatures, and served more than 200 people, whom Carr said were not the individuals taking part in the activities on the street.
Carr said he realizes there are real problems like the ones reported at the past meeting, but stated the city needs to provide the appropriate leadership to deal with the issue. He said those at the shelter are more than willing to help the council address the problems.
City Manager Rob Hill said the city is in discussions with organizations like the United Way of Lewis County to address the homeless issue.
“Literally not a day goes by that we are not discussing this,” he said. “Talk is cheap. We need to do something, and we’re definitely working on it.”
Brett Mitchell, executive director of Reliable Enterprises, attended the meeting to provide the council with an update on what the nonprofit organization does, and took time to discuss the issue.
He said efforts to help the homeless population have to be consistent, standardized and representative of what the community wants.
“We are certainly willing to participate in that discussion and see if we can’t help formulate a way for Centralia and Chehalis,” Mitchell said.