New Ontario City Council committee will take aim at homeless challenge

ONTARIO – The Ontario City Council moved recently to address the city’s growing homeless population by creating a new ad hoc committee to seek public input on the development of a public camping ordinance
The Homeless Advisory Committee will consist of seven members who will help officials develop the new regulations and allow residents to participate in the process. The committee will include two councilors, and five community members.
City officials want to put the new regulations in place before June 30. That’s the deadline set by the state for cities and counties to develop their own ordinances to address homeless camping in public spaces.
If a city or county doesn’t create such rules, a state law regulating public camping will go into effect.
Now, the city does not have regulations governing camping in public spaces, said Dan Cummings, Ontario city manager.
The rules on public camping will not be designed strictly to address the homeless, said Cummings.
“You have to make them fair. They apply to me and you and the homeless equally,” said Cummings.
Cummings said without a new city ordinance by July 1, people “can basically be on public property any time or any place.”
“We are hoping to get people involved who deal with the homeless day to day to make sure we get the regulations put in place that are fair to all citizens,” said Cummings.
The next step will be to select councilors and the residents to serve on the committee.
“The city needs to be proactive and to see what we can do to help,” said
City Councilor Penny Bakefelt and Councilor Eddie Melendrez will serve on the committee.
“We will seek members and see who applies. I think it needs to happen as soon as possible and I hope there is interest in it, that people reach out to be considered for it,” said Bakefelt.
Ontario Mayor Debbie Folden said the committee is a “necessary step.”
“I think it is very important. The homeless situation really needs to be addressed,” said Folden.
Folden said any move to address the homeless situation needs to be spearheaded by the community based on compassion.
“We need to work together to help people,” said Folden.
City Clerk Tori Barnett said she would post applications for the committee on the city’s website soon.
The tentative meeting scheduled for the committee is the second Thursday of each month from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at city hall.

News tip? Contact reporter Pat Caldwell at [email protected]

HOW TO SUBSCRIBE – The Malheur Enterprise delivers quality local journalism – fair and accurate. You can read it any hour, any day with a digital subscription. Read it on your phone, your Tablet, your home computer. Click subscribe – $7.50 a month.