‘We can’t arrest our way out of homelessness’

By ERIC A. HOWALD Of the Keizertimes As the members of the Mid-Willamette Homeless Initiative (MWHI) have been making the rounds in the region collecting feedback from residents on how to tackle homelessness in Marion and Polk counties, they are encountering a familiar refrain. “We attended a neighborhood meeting this past week and one of the questions that came up was about quality of life and livability concerns around homeless populations,” said Marion County Sheriff Jason Myers, a member of the WMHI task force. “The person in the community said just arrest them. What we’ve found from our experiences is we can’t arrest our way out of homelessness.” The statement served as preface to a presentation, provided by members of the Marion County District Attorney’s Office and Crisis Outreach Response Team (CORT), about some of the ways both groups are trying to innovate when tackling crimes often associated with homelessness. It was the centerpiece of the WMHI meeting at Keizer Civic Center Monday, June 6. “We are looking for better ways to tackle these issues,” said Deputy District Attorney Paige Clarkson, who is also the team leader for drug offenses sent to the Marion County DA’s office. When officers make contact with a homeless person for infractions related to livability issues, like criminal mischief or urinating in public, it’s not uncommon for those contacts to result in charges for possession...

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