Homeless brought up at City Council meeting
Kaylee Brewster, Lewiston Tribune, Idaho
Dec. 6—Concerns about homeless individuals in cold and snowy weather was again brought to the attention of the Lewiston City Council during public comment at Monday’s work session.
Michelle King, a homelessness advocate; Jolene Cliffe, of the Disability Action Center NW; community member Ada Eldridge; as well as a letter from Brittany Diaz, a local social worker all strongly encouraged the city council to take action on the issue — at least temporarily during the freezing weather.
King said the city is in the process of creating a code that would allow a buffer zone around a low-barrier homeless shelter. However, until that code is written and approved by the city, any proposed homeless shelter can’t be built. Because of that, she said the only way to create a homeless shelter is if the city of Lewiston allows one to be established.
King offered some solutions to the city, including a tent that is available and can be set up in a parking lot that could hook up to water and power, or opening a space for a temporary adult resource center.
Cliffe added that the group who is providing the shelter tent doesn’t need money, instead only requiring some space. She worked with the nonprofit LC Adult Resource Center last year, which out of Lewiston’s Salvation Army, and became emotional when talking about seeing people in need this year.
“It is a very difficult thing for me to watch,” Cliffe said. “Those people are no less than we are.”
Eldridge noted other cases where changes were made in zoning laws and questioned why it wasn’t being done for the homeless. Diaz in her email to the council stated that people who are homeless include women, children and veterans who need a warm place to stay.
All of the homeless advocates urged the city council to act quickly to prevent deaths from the current freezing temperatures. Diaz noted she didn’t want to hear about someone dying from being out in the cold on the local news.
During council comments, President Hannah Liedkie and councilor Rick Tousley address the homeless situation and stated that they wanted to find solutions that addressed the root cause of homelessness.
Tousley said he has talked to resource workers from the school district who said around 100 kids are homeless. Tousley said those figures indicate homeless is not caused by substance abuse issues. He said he is in conversations with people, including the mayor, to address the issue.