Capitol Neighborhoods recently hosted a forum on downtown homeless services to provide residents with an opportunity to hear about the outstanding work that many organizations are doing on this issue. We as downtown residents are generally very familiar with and educated about homeless issues and recognize that improving homeless services and facilities in our city is a step in the right direction.
It is important to distinguish the issue of unacceptable public behavior and the issue of homelessness. There is no direct correlation between the two. The issue that has played out at the top of State Street over the past few years is about unacceptable public behavior, not about homelessness. Therefore, as we as a downtown neighborhood association and we as a city work to address these separate issues, it is important to keep that distinction in mind.
On the issue of unacceptable public behavior, Capitol Neighborhoods recently signed on to a statement with other organizations outlining downtown behavioral standards, regardless of whether a person is a resident, a business person, a visitor, a student, a homeless individual, or anyone else. Good public behavior creates a welcoming environment for everyone who lives, works, and visits downtown, and we as a city should encourage good behavior and enforce behavioral standards fairly and equally.
On the issue of homelessness, it is important to approach the issue with compassion for individuals who are homeless. A homeless individual is no different than any one of us and deserves to be treated with human dignity and with respect for the human person. There are many people working very hard to provide homeless services throughout our city, especially downtown. We invited many of those providers to our homeless services forum so that downtown residents are aware of the extraordinary work that is being done and also to call attention to the gaps in service that exist.
Important discussions remain on issues such as the location of a proposed day resource center, and we as downtown residents want to be part of the discussion and want to be part of the solution. Downtown residents in general do not view homeless individuals as a “problem.” Instead, the challenge for our city and our downtown is identifying and filling gaps in homeless services so that individuals can obtain health care, job training, and other resources and also have a safe place to sleep at night.