It turns out that Sheriff Sean Smith was right about the legal ramifications of having no place for persons who are homeless to sleep. He always contended that the camp near the Tech Center was established to provide that option and thus, to avoid lawsuits from outside groups such as the ACLU. Sheriff Smith has taken considerable heat related to this decision. Now, we learn that his position was legally more on target than some people gave him credit for. We now see that with no viable options for sleeping, people who are homeless have a legal right to sleep almost anywhere.
In the sheriff’s race, Smith has been accused of “not enforcing laws” around homelessness. Again, we learn that it’s much more complicated and nuanced than this assertion. Having a camp in the woods, where it was previously located, is not an option because it presents a dire wildfire risk. However, we need to find another location that will ensure suitable, safe shelter, offer compassion and avoid legal risk to our governments. And, longer-term housing options need to be expanded such as the efforts being taken on by Housing Solutions for supportive housing and Community Compassion Outreach for a tiny home village. More mental health and other services are needed too.
I commend Sheriff Smith for taking the hard path and hope he, and everyone, can work better together to find real solutions. These problems impact us all but are not unsolvable.