Baker City Councilors discussed homeless camps and potential ways for city officials to offer help to homeless residents while avoiding problems such as accumulating trash.

Acting Mayor Nathan Hodgdon, who presided over the Tuesday, May 24 meeting in place of Mayor Matt Diaz, who was absent, said he would like the city to encourage homeless people to be good neighbors.

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Samantha is a Community Reporter covering city council meetings, new business profiles, county commissioner meetings, and local events. 

She grew up in Baker City, graduated from Baker High School in 2012, and Eastern Oregon University in 2016.

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(2) comments


The statements made by Baker City Councilors on May 23, 2023, regarding homeless camps and the potential ways to assist homeless residents demonstrate a shift in perspective and approach compared to an earlier Baker City Herald article from January 31, 2023.

In Council’s recent statements, Acting Mayor Nathan Hodgdon emphasizes the need for the city to encourage homeless people to be good neighbors and address their needs in a compassionate manner. He recognizes that traditional punitive measures are ineffective and suggests implementing a "good neighbor policy" that rewards responsible behavior with incentives such as ice cream cone vouchers, YMCA day passes, or local business credits.

Hodgdon's proposed approach reflects a change in attitude from the earlier article, which highlighted the struggles faced by homeless individuals in Baker City.

The article featured Brent Bailey, a U.S. Navy veteran, and other homeless residents who attended a resource fair seeking assistance and information about available aid programs. It is worth noting that the article mentioned the presence of organizations like the Northeast Oregon Housing Authority, New Directions Northwest, and the Baker County Health Department, who were on hand to address questions and explain aid programs.

The stark contrast between the two sets of statements and the article reveals a discrepancy in actions and words. While the article recognizes the challenges faced by homeless individuals like Brent Bailey, the councilors' recent statements portray a somewhat dismissive perspective. Hodgdon acknowledges that Baker City has a relatively small homeless population, referring to them as "houseless people" who are couch surfing or living in others' apartments. This terminology implies a certain level of downplaying the issue by categorizing the homeless as part of a transient community rather than a distinct group with specific needs.

Furthermore, Hodgdon's desire to avoid "tent cities" that exist in larger cities like Portland reflects a dismissive attitude towards the severity of homelessness. The comparison with Portland's tent cities suggests a lack of acknowledgement for the homeless individuals in Baker City and undermines the urgency to address their needs. This contrasts with the earlier article, which highlighted efforts to estimate the number of homeless residents in Baker City, particularly through events like resource fairs.

The councilors' proposed approach of incentivizing good behavior with rewards like ice cream cone vouchers and local business credits, while well-intentioned, may be viewed as inadequate and potentially condescending. By offering such incentives, the councilors may inadvertently trivialize the complexity of homelessness and the underlying social, economic, and mental health factors contributing to it. The approach seems to prioritize superficial gestures of goodwill over addressing the root causes of homelessness and providing comprehensive support services mentioned in your January 31, 2023 article.

Carla Koplein

It is about time, the city is talking about taking this approach to our homeless people in Baker city. It is the right thing to do and it is humane. I wish we could go one step further and provide bathrooms, even if they are just port-a-potties, and a place to wash up. There are so many things that can be done.

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