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Problem With Homeless Urinating At Courthouse
"It's a public health issue, that's what we're dealing with a public health issue."
The public health issue starts with homeless people sleeping on the courthouse steps. It's what they leave behind that is the problem.
While you sleep at home, about three dozen homeless people are laying down paper, cardboard and blankets on the steps of the courthouse and jail. The problem is, they are also using the county buildings as bathrooms.
Sheriff Jim Neil calls it a health problem. As Local 12's Deborah Dixon shows us, no one thinks just moving them or arresting is the answer.
If you've ever been here early in the morning, you smell urine walking up the steps and you have to watch where you're walking. Parts of the courthouse need repaired, damaged by urination. There is a plan.
The courthouse and justice center sleepover ... Homeless people bedding down for the night. They feel safer in numbers, and when they have to go to the bathroom, some of them just go in a corner.
"If you don't have the courthouse steps, the jail steps, sleep under the bridge where you can find it can be dangerous. If you have kids, bored, roam the streets, it can be dangerous."
Now, sheriffs deputies move them along at six in the morning. And county workers come and hose down the steps. They always get it all.
Major Charmaine McGuffey:
"We are planning to create a county campus patrol."
In a meeting with county officials, social agencies and city police, Major McGuffey announced the plan for the two man patrol around the jail and justice center to keep the order...and more.
"Also to move people from sleeping, urinating and leaving trash on the property."
Everyone in this room agrees, just moving them doesn't solve the problem. Most of the homeless have substance abuse problems. They need detox. They need a place to go.
Josh Spring, Homeless Coalition:
"We maintain, as long as they are not hurting anyone, have the right to be where they are, at the same time they need to get assistance and move on with their lives."
The county administrator's been working on that. There is now funding for a nighttime outreach worker like the one who works days.
Christian Sigman, County Administrator:
"There are many resources, but no means at nighttime to get them to the services available, they may not know how to get them."
Sheriff Jim Neil says his department wants to deal with this issue with compassion.
Over here at the jail, now open the doors so they can use the bathrooms, talking about doing that a couple of times a day, not just in the morning.