The number of homeless people in the Tri-Cities has plummeted to 40, from a high of more than 200 five years ago.
That's something to celebrate, but at the same time, the Hope for Freedom Society - one of the groups largely responsible for that drop - was turned down by PoCo council recently when it requested a temporary-use permit to run a shelter at the Grace Campus of Northside Church for two more seasons.
City staff and the city's own smart growth committee supported the application, but council nixed it after receiving about half a dozen complaints about litter, drug use, noise and loitering near the church.
We understand council's desire to listen to the public - that's one of the main things they're elected to do, after all, but wonder whether moving, or simply closing, the shelter will really alleviate residents' concerns.
When homeless people have access to a shelter nearby, social workers and volunteers can help them get the resources they need, whether it's drug and alcohol counselling, identification or a new set of prescription eyeglasses. When they don't have access to those services in the community, they're still there, along with the drug use, litter, noise and loitering that sometimes - but not always - accompany them. In fact, they may be more visible, since they're now on the street 24/7. Having 80 per cent fewer homeless people in the Tri-Cities is a significant achievement. With a permanent shelter still two years away, let's hope a new temporary site is found soon, so that progress is not derailed.
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