UPE met with DHS and the Director of Homeless Initiatives on July 27, 2022, to discuss the impact of a Stay Safe Community encampment that would be built in the parking lot of 7001 E. Parkway. County representatives reported that the BOS approved the Safe Stay Community encampment as a temporary shelter for a two-year period. This center would provide a safe and sanitary environment that would house homeless individuals from the surrounding area of E. Parkway.
The Director of homeless Initiatives reported that the shelter would not be screening individuals out, explaining that the only criteria to qualify is to be an adult, be homeless, and be interested in the housing. She further explained that a felony background would not disqualify anyone; however, if an individual were to become violent, they would be removed from the sanctioned housing and not allowed back.
UPE expressed concerns over the safety of the E. Parkway staff as currently, the staff does not feel safe on the premises. UPE explained that staff is concerned about the homeless who do not want to participate in the program and abide by the rules but would take any necessary steps to attain the perks provided at the stay-safe center. The county insisted that this would not be a problem and that social workers trained in de-escalation would monitor the premises 24/7. UPE stated that staff would feel safer with trained, armed officers as the homeless are known to be unpredictable.
When UPE asked what the protocol is if a homeless person became violent, the county replied that the local law enforcement would be called. UPE explained that by the time an officer arrives at the scene it may be too late. UPE stated that the county needs to come up with a plan that is proactive and would place staff safety as a priority prior to the implementation of the Stay Safe Community encampment. UPE asked for cameras to be installed in the back of the building where staff enter and park their vehicles. The county replied that they would be looking at funding for the surveillance cameras to be installed prior to the implementation of the encampment.