Lacey’s workgroup on homelessness bares internal conflict


Members of Lacey's community workgroup on homelessness unveiled their group's ongoing concerns and issues as they met with the City Council in a joint work session on Thu., Feb. 17.

Community and Economic Development Director Rick Walk said the unforeseen COVID-19 pandemic at the beginning of 2020 became a huge obstacle for them because they could not conduct in-person meetings.

"We had a lot of ... learning curves through this effort," said Walk, highlighting that the group had trouble adjusting to the virtual setup.

Walk said they started with 30 members, but only 12 to 14 members remained active throughout the whole process because of personal, family, and health issues. He also cited members' exhaustion from the virtual environment as one of the concerns.

Workgroup member and business owner Madelin White said most of the members that quit "got frustrated because businesses were not being recognized in reality."

White said the workgroup should recognize that some homeless people do not want to receive any help, and when they are causing disturbance to businesses, they should be held accountable.

"We have to keep the businesses alive and open in our community, or there won't be any tax resources," White said.

Edwin Pole, a workgroup member, echoed White's concern adding that viewpoints presented within the workgroup do not reflect the general opinion of Lacey.

Meanwhile, workgroup members Paul Perz and Scot Elgen said their team tackled homelessness as a complicated issue, but it is something that the city should continue to address.

"I am confident with what the workgroup has done. I think we have formed a very balanced group," Elgen said.

Although they recognize the workgroup's flaws and believe that there is still a lot more to do, members Jim Stanton and Defrance Clarke said they agree with their internal process and think they have done the best they possibly could.

Mayor Andy Ryder said he recognizes the barriers and struggles that the workgroup is facing, but he believes that addressing homelessness in the city should continue.

Ryder suggested that there should be one in-person community gathering once the pandemic is over to address the issues and concerns that cannot be resolved virtually.

"The issue of homelessness is a topic that is terribly complex and polarizing," Ryder said. "There is a lot of work ahead of us."

The Lacey community workgroup on homelessness was formed in 2020 to serve as an advisory group that represents the community to discuss homelessness and recommend strategies that the council could consider.


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