By Kiera Morgan
The Newport City Council at a recent work session discussed the issue of panhandling and the amount of homeless camps within the city. According to police Chief Mark Miranda they are getting some complaints about the panhandlers and those who are hanging out and drinking in public areas. He guessed that right now there might be up to 100 homeless in the city.
It was pointed out that some panhandlers are getting more aggressive and approaching people in their cars or following them out of stores. Chief Miranda said they are looking at an ordinance that would make it a violation to cause a car to stop in order to solicit funds. It was pointed out that not all of those who are homeless are panhandling. City manager Spencer Nebel said other cities in the state including Portland have made it a violation to pass items from your car while driving to another person.
Homeless people with mental illnesses are causing disruptions at Newport City hall, the Rec Center and the Library. Library director Ted Smith told the city council that his staff is dealing with asking people to leave because they are drunk or high and become disruptive. “We are dealing with an incredible amount of people with mental health issues that come into our library every day and some of them are frightening.” He added “that’s really not conducive to mom’s and dad’s wanting to bring their kids into the library.”
Smith told the council that it is a safety issue and has caused a lot of stress on his staff. He said they call the police on a frequent basis but all the police can do is trespass them from the property. “Often times they come back and my staff tells them that the police took them out and they can’t come back and they don’t remember.” Smith said there is also a problem with bringing food into the library and using the restrooms to “bathe”.
Councilor Sawyer said this is something that has been going on in Newport for a very long time. Councilors have also gotten complaints about homeless camps that have been set up on city trails, beaches and parks and citizens are complaining that they don’t feel safe visiting certain areas of the city anymore such as Agate Beach wayside and the trail to Big Creek Park. City manager Nebel wants to hold a meeting between Newport, Lincoln City and the County to discuss options and possible ordinances to address the problem.