The new Sunnyside public camping ordinance recently approved by the city council is receiving praise from local businessowners and neighbors in the South Seventh Street area but is also an example of community residents working together to help one another.

The policy is a product of open communications between city officials, businesses, religious leaders and residents working together to find solutions to the difficult homelessness situation in the downtown public parking lot with compassion and respect.

They sought the city’s help in clearing up the disabled cars which were being used as mobile refuge sites by a small group of people without housing.

In a letter written Monday, Sept. 7, to City Manager Martin Casey, Alayne Michels said the new ordinance was “something to move us in the right direction.”

Michels, along with nearby businesses and residents facing and bordering the city-owned parking lot, began contacting the city about their concerns around people parking and living in vehicles at the parking lot for the past eight months.

The group, which included Pastor Jeff Pagel of the First Baptist Church and business owner Frank Pardo of High Tech and about 12 others in close proximity to the area.

They met with the parking lot occupants and offered goods and services to help them with getting their cars operating and out of the lot.

Admitting the homeless situation was a complex issue, “I do feel that having an ordinance upon which the police department can act is definitely moving in the right direction,” she wrote to Martin.

“Again, thank you for putting this at the top of the city’s list of concerns and working with our legal advisors to come up with something to deal with these problems,” Michels continued.

Currently, she noted there are two cars remaining in the lot although the owners seem to have found alternative lodging. “It’s our hope that the police will be enabled to remove these problematic vehicles and all the accumulated debris surrounding them,” Michels added.

“Thanks again to everyone who has attempted to address this issue,” she concluded.

The public camping ordinance went into effect five days after the council approved the measure at its Aug. 24 meeting.

Patrick Shelby for the Sunnyside Sun editorial board. PShelby@sunnysidesun.com

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