Monday, June 17, 2024

Response to a letter about a murder

First and foremost, this was a tragedy that should have never happened and my heart goes out to the family of the victim and the witnesses.

I would like to respond to the narrative that blames homeless shelters and homeless people, as a whole, for the actions of one individual.
I’d like to emphasize that the actions of one individual does not represent an entire group. Just as we shouldn’t generalize about other groups based on the actions of one person, we shouldn’t do so with homeless people either. Recently data shows a lot of our homeless population are families and elderly individuals, not the stereotypical drug addicted people. I won’t deny that those type of homeless do exist and are often the most visible. A large percentage of our population is one unexpected expense away from possibly being homeless. As a renter, I understand I, like so many others, are one decision, one broken pipe, or one electrical fire away from being in a similar situation.
What we should be highlighting is the need for better mental health services and support systems. The issue is not homelessness itself but the lack of adequate mental health care and support for vulnerable individuals.
Homeless shelters and support centers often provide crucial services, including safety, basic needs, and support to help individuals get back on their feet. A lot of these services work with local law enforcement, which can give our police and sheriff a heads up about potential problems. Without these shelters, many more people would be in dire situations, potentially increasing public safety issues.
I would like to stress the importance of addressing the root causes of homelessness, such as poverty, lack of affordable housing, and inadequate mental health care, rather than scapegoating the homeless population.
We need to advocate for solutions that enhance community safety while maintaining compassion and support for all residents. We need community programs that focus on rehabilitation, mental health care, and integration of homeless individuals into society.
We, as a community, need to understand the complexities of homelessness and advocate for more constructive and compassionate solutions. This is a national problem, not just a local one. If we truly want to solve this issue, it is going to take all of being involved.
The more people are genuinely involved in our government and community, the more potential solutions there are. We can’t keep throwing our hands up and withdrawing when our side, candidates, or party doesn’t win. I know it frustrating when we feel unheard but giving up only guarantees that you won’t be heard. As a local leader, I know our local governments listen to our communities but most of the time it is a small vocal group showing up. If you want to be heard email your comments instead of just putting them on social media, or better yet show up to a meeting and take part.

 

Mitch Parsons

LCH Reader
LCH Reader
The views and opinions expressed in letters to the editor are not necessarily those of Lincoln City Homepage.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Mitch, thanks for writing here and for your service to the city. You make good points. Writer Laurence Leamer reportedly said, “The difference between a helping hand and an outstretched palm is a twist of the wrist.” I want to acknowledge that some of the comments about this story don’t seem to offer our city much of a helping hand, particularly those that say things like, “We don’t want to become Portland.” That no doubt puts informed leaders like yourself in a real double bind.

    First, when people say things like “we” (which assumes a lot) think that Portland is “terrible,” that is no way to support local businesses or the tourist industry. What loyal Portlander who loves their city will want to come spend their vacation dollars in Lincoln City, if the most outspoken locals are so scornful? Talking about someone else’s home the way some people talk about Portland is a turn off, and offers no solutions to local problems. How would it feel if Portlanders said, “We don’t want to become a mini Lincoln City” whenever someone is killed on Hwy 101 as a result of what can best be described as traffic insanity–whether the cause is speeding, driving drunk, texting, a pet jumping around the driver, or roadway maintenance design? It just adds trauma on top of trauma.

    It’s also a double bind because how can leaders possibly meet the demands of such different groups? One demand, “No new housing!” probably comes from those who have their personal needs for medical care and housing met, while other people may not even have the ability or self-assurance to communicate that their basic needs are unmet, like clothes for a job interview, affordable transportation, and a place for their bed. Then there is everyone in between, as Heather Chandler put so well in the letter to the editor titled, “It’s a Nuanced Issue.”

    Lastly, it’s hard to solve problems piecemeal, without acknowledging all the truisms. One mysteriously ignored yet obvious reason Lincoln City feels so unsafe is the lack of people out and about outside of cars. Currently, walking along the highway can feel very lonely alongside the hostile traffic. People driving 45 in a 30mph zone (like the stretch where Dutch Bros & the Cultural Center are), can’t see the context of what’s going on at a business, hotel lot, or sidewalk to offer help even if they wanted to. They’re simply going by too fast, to be aware of people on the ground. Our Highway 101, which is Lincoln City’s main street, is an objectively caustic and menacing place for people on the ground on foot, bicycle, or wheelchair, and it’s due to the traffic design, not houseless folks. For people trying to commute by bus, bike or foot–including tourists with money to spend–it can feel more like seven miles of sneers or snarls than smiles. Just like Reagan-era policies eliminated programs for mental health, directly leading us to where we are now (as I was once informed by a law enforcement officer), someone came through this town and widened US 101 for more cars without adding livability for non-car travel, enjoyment and exploration. And here we are.

    So what would welcome people to wander outside more? Bike lanes and curb-protected sidewalks along the highway; bike parking at grocery stores; more marked crossings. All those would make life easier and safer for many people. Then, the more friendly people are out and about, the safer it starts to feel. But currently, if walking into a laundromat is taking one’s life into one’s hands, as someone commented, consider needing to cross the highway on foot on a regular basis. Just the noise from traffic and sirens can cause everything from heart issues to psychological breakdowns. One study said, “In rats, 90- to 95-dB noise exposure for a 1-hr period for 7 days was associated with earlier onset and increased severity of collagen-induced arthritis.” And studies have correlated the hostility of car-centric environments with mental illness and other health issues, many stemming from lack of exercise due to fear of traffic.

    In short, eliminating peaceful outdoor places for people to walk to businesses and be healthy makes it less safe or healthy for all. But choosing to restore places for people, and adding options like housing and night buses and bikeways, will improve the environment for everyone, which creates more of an attractive community to tourists, too. That means more money for this community, and more businesses able to stay in business. Lincoln City elected and business leaders are wise to seek and consider holistic solutions and ideas for what our community is experiencing, and, to quote Don, listen to all voices, even the quieter, peace-seeking voices who may feel timid to speak up amid the louder, reactive voices.

  2. The main problem is, though, the “stereotypical drug addicted people”, as you put it, Mitch Parsons, are the ones committing the crimes, like the murder committed last week at the hotel in Lincoln City. One crime and/or murder is one too many. Think of the poor lady that lost her husband last week. She probably will never come back to Lincoln City due to her loss & trauma.

    The main thing to address is mental help for those that obviously need it before housing them. Again, they are the ones committing the crimes. We understand that not all homeless fit into that category. There needs to be discretion.

    I was approached in the Safeway parking lot by a male homeless person asking for money who obviously needed mental help. We all know the money would more than likely be used for alcohol or drugs, rather than food.

    It is a complex issue because you have those who are really trying to get back on their feet, & you have those who are addicted to drugs/alcohol. But the answer isn’t just housing them all. There are other steps to be taken before you do that.

    Leaders of each community need to be open to input from everyone, not just the ones that agree with them.

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