The continuing saga of the homeless situation in Corvallis has produced some new approaches.
Homeless individuals are taking a more aggressive posture by setting up tents and other encampments in public places. Last weekend a tent was spotted outside of Five Star Sports on Southwest Madison Avenue. Another group, whose gear includes a protest sign, was seen Monday night at Southwest Second and Madison while a City Council meeting on homeless was taking place 100 feet away at the Majestic Theatre.
Now, a tent has sprung up in the plaza outside City Hall, 501 SW Madison Ave. Kimball Craig and Ronald Ware were on hand Thursday. Ware was wielding a broom to keep the area tidy while Craig, who spoke at Monday’s marathon five-and-a-half hour session, explained the situation.
He and Ware are not living in the tent. That would be illegal camping. But they are trying to raise awareness of the main challenge for many homeless people: trying to find a place to camp.
Craig compared it to the “whack-a-mole” carnival game, in which players try to smack the moles with a mallet when they pop up out of their holes. Translated, it means that homeless campers feel that when they are whacked at one camping site they just move to another. Until they get whacked there.
Craig’s display includes whack-a-mole signs as well as copies of citations he said he received for trying to help a camper evacuate a site across the Willamette River in Alan Berg Park.
“It’s the sheer magnitude of the whack-a-mole thing they do that set me off,” Craig said. “It’s been going on for years. And they have a budget for this,” he added, noting that the city budget includes money to clean up campsites.
“It’s a waste of money,” Ware said. “They should just give us trash bags and come back later to pick them up when they’re full.”
Craig, who also spoke at a City Club meeting on homelessness on June 26, said he has been following the debate over the men’s cold weather shelter. Two long-term solutions have proposed, one at a site on Southwest Second Street and the other on Northwest Belvue more than two miles from downtown.
“Downtown makes sense … I don’t see why not,” Craig said. “But now they’ve got this really nice proposal” north of town.
“The shelter is important,” he said, “but there are people who aren’t going to go there.”
Lt. Dan Duncan of the Corvallis Police Department said that the department’s community livability officers have visited the City Hall site and confirmed that there currently are no violations. Camping is illegal, but he said there are no signs that Craig and Ware have been sleeping there.
Duncan noted that the setup is not blocking the sidewalk, but he also cautioned that if Craig and Ware don’t remain with the tent it could lead to a violation for unlawful storage of property in a public place.