Homeless in Duluth?

Have you walked past the Lakewalk entrance by the Electric Fetus on Lake Avenue and Superior Street lately?

Seems that it’s become the cool place to hang out — at least for Duluth’s homeless. In spite of the availability of nearby public restrooms, the smell of urine and feces is ubiquitous.

This is a public health issue. Sanitary issues at homeless encampments have lead to 16 deaths in a hepatitis outbreak in San Diego.

Of course the homeless need help — and we have CHUM and many other great shelters and places for those who need help to find it. But ignoring the public health risks of what has become a homeless encampment at Shoreline Fountain and tossing out a couple bucks to the person holding a sign on the corner is not a good solution.

We’re not doing the homeless or our city any favors by simply ignoring them and waiting for cold weather to drive them away from public view. We need get those who truly need help the assistance they need and stop hazardous behavior if it occurs. None of that seems to be happening right now.

It’s a shame — Duluth has a great downtown. But we won’t make the very real public health issues around homelessness go away by ignoring them.

14 Comments

Sam

about 3 years ago

There is also a good deal of drug use there, and I'm not talking about pot.

hbh1

about 3 years ago

They closed the liquor store on First Street. Now the closest one to downtown is in Canal Park. This is the logical result for the alcohol dependent homeless who need to stay in the vicinity of downtown for safety and relative proximity to services available to them. 

Welcome to the lessons of unintended consequences. People don't just disappear.

Northern_Owlbear

about 3 years ago

When you say "They" closed the liquor store, who is they? The city? Because a private developer bought up that whole block, including the building with the liquor store. I don't think the developer cares one way or another what happens.

Special K

about 3 years ago

That corner has been a problem for this behavior even when the First Street liquor store was open.  For a couple years now my wife and I have walked that direction downtown during the day.  We constantly encounter drinkers and pan-handlers sitting on/blocking the stairs behind Electric Fetus.

Even on such a major intersection it seems strangely secluded with all the greenery, so maybe that's its draw.

I seem to recall the fountain there was installed upside down or something.  Maybe it's time to redo that park?

gilgamesh

about 3 years ago

First steps would be for the "clean and safe" folks to clean up the baggage / stuff that gets stashed in corners and under bushes in conjunction with police enforcement of public intoxication/urination statues.

hbh1

about 3 years ago

Ha. That private developer is working in conjunction with city planning and one of the profiteers involved is former mayor Gary Doty. If you don't think closing that liquor store was a cause of celebration in City Hall, then you are woefully out of touch with the realities of the plans for First Street. Gentrification of that street, that will likely result in another Endi or Bluestone type property is the desired result. 

Having the police steal the property of homeless people is a pretty shitty thing to suggest. 

People are allowed to gather outside in a free country. If they are committing illegal acts, then they may be arrested for those acts. Sitting outside and looking scary is not one of them. Panhandling is not illegal (yet). It's not like the police are being lazy or something. They have more important things to do than to arrest people that make you feel uncomfortable. Public intoxication is an arrestable offense, but honestly, how do you think this really works? They spend the night in jail or detox, and then they're out the next day, and on and on. The root of the problem is homelessness and addiction. I have lived in this city for over two decades, and I have experienced this same constant refrain of folks who kneejerk at the idea that Something Must be Done about Those People Downtown Who Scare Me. A little depth in thinking would make me feel a little less tired. It's more complicated than moving them out of your line of sight.

hbh1

about 3 years ago

P.S. One of the easiest things we could do to prevent public urination would be to have public toilets available for all. There used to be public toilets in the basement of City Hall that were available 24/7 for those on the streets, because the police department was there. Now there is nowhere for people to go. You can't complain about "those people" using public toilets for things you don't like and then complain also about them using the bushes and alleys for toilets. Which is it going to be?

Shane

about 3 years ago

It has been tried in other cities. The problem with public restrooms that are open 24/7 is that the homeless will sleep in them or do other things in them. If they are made too small to sleep in they are not ADA compliant.

gilgamesh

about 3 years ago

Such vitriol from HBH1!  

I get the feeling maybe you are projecting you own "tired" feelings onto others.

Sure it's a free country and you can assemble in a public space - subject to health and safety considerations, nuisance laws,  appropriate time and place etc.  Cities further make decisions about what is appropriate in what neighborhoods all the time with zoning and other planning tools.  

The downtown fountain and parks around the various entrances to the lake walk are a conduit for tourist activities and a major part of what makes living and working downtown attractive.  Allowing those areas to be taken over by homeless people is not helping Duluth with it's image or its tax base.  

Nor is it helpful in any long term sense to the homeless.

It's not wrong or mean or out of line or a violation of any rights to simply say "sorry, you cannot wash your clothes in the fountain, camp, beg, or even congregate here" as one part of the city's strategy for dealing with the homeless.

hbh1

about 3 years ago

24 hr access to hygiene facilities should be a human right. It has been passed by the City Council as part of the Homeless Bill of Rights, as have the following rights:

The right to use and move freely in public spaces, without discrimination or arbitrary time limits
The right to rest in public spaces and protect oneself from elements in a non-obstructive manner
The right to eat, share or accept food in public spaces
The right to occupy a legally parked motor vehicle
The right to a reasonable expectation of privacy in public spaces
The right to equal treatment by city staff and departments
The right to protection from disclosure of personal information without consent
The right to protection from discrimination in housing and employment
The right to 24-hour access to basic hygiene facilities
The right to choose whether or not to utilize emergency shelter
The right to speak with an advocate or street outreach worker when questioned by police

For something so basic as a place to take a shit instead of in your yard or next to your car, I support the hiring of someone to caretake such a facility to prevent such heinous activities as "sleeping" and "other things."

hbh1

about 3 years ago

Oh sorry--hasn't been passed yet, but is likely to. I thought they'd passed it by now. For Christ sake. (Yes, you're right, I am a bit full of vitriol on this subject. I find it incredible that things as basic as having a place to use a toilet is controversial. It defies logic.)

gilgamesh

about 3 years ago

Lol - well good luck establishing your socialist utopia - - but I sure won't want to live there.

Paul Lundgren

about 3 years ago

We can make fun of socialist utopias and the rights of people to move freely -- or we can make fun of profit-center prisons and the rights of the upper class to not have to look at the lower class. There's plenty to argue about there either way, but it can get awfully silly.
 
Every city of significant population has homeless people sleeping in storefronts, drinking in parks and pissing in public. Duluth has had this problem for a long time, just like so many other cities.
 
There is a wide range of possible solutions that we all know won't definitely solve the problem, because there is disagreement about exactly how to even define the problem. But it's clear every action has consequences.
 

 
"The Story of Duluth’s Graffiti Graveyard" was published today on LakeVoice News. There are a lot of places we have chosen to push homeless people away from. Where do we want to push them to? I'd prefer the answer doesn't involve steel bars.

Abby1240

about 6 months ago

But WHY?? WHY do they come here? The homeless, vagrants, derelicts? The farthest northern city with unbelievably brutal winters? Why this town??

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