COMMENTS CONCERNING PROPOSED HOMELESS SHELTER CODE
Proposed code Section 3.6.600 is comprehensive and thorough, with clear and objective standards concerning the operation of permanent homeless shelters. The Sounding Board and staff deserve credit for a job well done.
But Section 3.6.400 concerning two types of temporary shelters is poorly written. Ideally, the terms and conditions of a statute should be clear, so there is no argument over what is allowed and what is prohibited.
- 3.6.400.H is an expansion of the present medical hardship code. It says that a shelter “may be used by people who lack housing” then goes on to include those homeless due to fire, floor, calamity.
- On its face this code would allow people to house any homeless person on their property for up to one year, regardless of why they are homeless. Is this intended?
- Calamity is not defined. Could it include an abused woman who is homeless because she fled from a violent husband? A girl living on the street because of sexual abuse at home?
- The code fails to define the exact roles of the people who allow a homeless person to live on their lot. What are they responsible for? 24-hour supervision?
- The code needs to further specify what sort of behavior would result in revocation of the permit. Presently, it addresses only dumping waste on the ground. If you intend the code to permit people to house drug addicts, alcoholics or those who are mentally ill, you should foresee the problems which accompany such people, which are frequently what made them homeless in the first place. Exposing oneself to the neighbor child? Passing out drunk on the neighbor’s front yard? Panhandling?
“Hardship” shelters should be for people who are homeless because of medical problems, fire, flood or other causes for which they are not personally responsible, if the intent is only to expand the present code. Permits should require independent certification and clear management standards for the people who allow an unrelated person to reside on their property.
- 3.6.400.I represents an entirely new concept. Unlike the present medical hardship code, it has no precedent.
Councilor Kebler explains that Section 3.6.400.I is intended to cover temporary situations, such as a church allowing a “temporary smoke shelter” and later a “temporary warming shelter.” She says that this provision simply codifies practices which are already occurring for “a temporary shelter during an emergency.”
But Section 3.6.400.I says nothing about emergencies. As written, it doesn’t apply to emergencies at all. The planning staff has confirmed my understanding:
- It allows a 180-day placement of a homeless shelter;
- On a site in virtually any zone;
- Of any number of dwelling units, including tents;
- For any reason that people are homeless;
- With no density limits, minimal standards or designated management;
- None of the 3.6.600.C permanent shelter standards apply;
- Toilets and trash need not be screened;
- There is no Good Neighborhood agreement;
- On-site parking is not required.
This code needs the same strict standards which will obtain to permanent shelters. It makes no provision for management or who will be responsible for the conduct of the people living there. The only clear term for revocation is, again, dumping waste onto the ground or a right of way.
In short, this code makes no provision to deal with the sort of conduct which residents have said they fear. As written, it will cause serious problems for the success of any homeless shelter program.