Helping Homeless? City Starts New Program to Help Street People
The city of Yakima is starting a new program to help homeless and take them off the streets of Yakima. Yakima Union Gospel Mission Director Mike Johnson because of court rulings and state laws the legal landscape is "murky" for cities trying to enforce ordinances against illegal camping.
JOHNSON AND CITY AND COUNTY LEADERS HAVE BEEN WORKING FOR YEARS LOOKING FOR AN ANSWER
Over the last four years Johnson says he's been working closely with city and county officials to find an answer to helping homeless people in Yakima while also helping businesses in the downtown area who have to deal with problem on a daily basis.
Johnson says the new initiative will help reduce what he calls "civility crimes" such as criminal trespass, drinking or urinating in public in Yakima’s downtown core and up N 1st Street. The new program or initiative is a result of a partnership between "Yakima’s criminal justice departments, affected property owners, and local service-providers such as Yakima Union Gospel Mission."
SO HOW WILL IT WORK?
Johnson says it's really a special emphasis program to focus on helping homeless and business owners. He says Yakima Police have agreed to increase their priority for responding to complaints in the downtown core and North 1st Street about what are called civility crimes. Downtown business owners are also encouraged to support prosecution by the city prosecutors office.
THE AIM IS TO GET HOMELESS PEOPLE THE HELP THEY NEED TO MOVE OFF THE STREET INTO A SHELTER OR HOME
Instead of placing people in jail the city is hoping to use a diversion program so people can get help for a host of problems that may in fact keep them living on the street. He says while the city can't criminalize homelessness it can simply enforce the law and address the crime being reported in the downtown area.
JOHNSON SAYS ENFORCING LAWS WILL PROVIDE A PLACE FOR PEOPLE TO GET HELP IF THEY WANT IT
“Almost everyone I know who has broken free from drugs - which is in the hundreds - talks about their getting arrested as a very positive, essential part of their choice to pursue a new way of living." Johnson and others are confident the program will make an impact on Yakima.
Washington State Law is clear;
"A person at least eighteen years of age who is in possession of an unloaded pistol shall not leave the unloaded pistol in a vehicle unless the unloaded pistol is locked within the vehicle and concealed from view from outside the vehicle. (b) A violation of this subsection is a misdemeanor."
Many people in Yakima who carry a gun say they would never leave a gun in a vehicle for any reason. Many say they never leave the gun anywhere but on themselves or secured at home. If you are inclined to carry your gun but store it in your vehicle police say purchase a lock box for your vehicle.
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Gallery Credit: Hannah Lang