DSM is considering new ways to restrict homeless encampments and assist those who live in them, city staff and advocates told Axios.
Why it matters: Safety is on the line for both those experiencing homelessness and the public.
- Propane tank explosions and fires under bridges can cause structural damage and close roads, which happened back in 2018.
- Almost $7.5 million is allocated in the current fiscal year budget for homeless assistance, including emergency shelters, rehousing and street outreach.
Among the ideas:
- Barricades to prevent people from living under bridges.
- A $250k mobile hygiene unit equipped with showers, trash receptacles and laundry facilities.
Flashback: An encroachment notice process was developed in 2012 to standardize how DSM handles complaints.
- It allows those experiencing homeless an opportunity to appeal to an administrative law judge before their camps are removed.
- The city works with advocacy groups to offer aid to those affected before removing camps.
But problems still persist.
- DSM spent $54,104 and more than 600 hours of city staff time on camp cleanups last year.
- Debris complaints and conflicts with the public have risen, particularly from camps that are sometimes a few feet from trails.
- Site cleanups are often a short-term solution because those experiencing homeless frequently have nowhere else to go and simply build new camps in another location.
What they’re saying: City council members are trying to balance humanitarian aid with broader public safety policies, Melissa O’Neil, CEO of Central Iowa Shelter & Services told Jason.
- "It's a dance we have to make as a society, both ethically and morally," she said.
What’s next: New policy and program proposals could come before city council for further review in coming months.
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