A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

This is what Albany wants to discourage

Written April 22nd, 2019 by Hasso Hering

Asked if I could take his photo, the man camped in the east doorway of the First Christian Church Saturday said yes.

Scenes like this — people camping downtown on public and private property — are what some members of the Albany City Council don’t want to encourage. That’s why they worry about a portable toilet that’s been set up outside the First Christian Church since last fall.

I came across the scene as I went past the Ferry Street side of the church early in the afternoon the Saturday before Easter. The man was sitting in his camp, whittling a stake to make what he said would be a walking stick. He told me his name was Jason and he was 37 years old.

Had someone hassled him about camping there? He shook his head a little. Did he intend to stay long? He said something about an “agency” trying to find him a place. His stuff was still there in the early evening. The next day it was gone.

The First Christian and nearby United Presbyterian churches had gone together on the expense to set up the outdoor portable toilet, on the west side of First Christian facing Washington Street, because of concerns about the messes left by people spending nights near the building.

A section of the Municipal Code prohibits permanent placement of “privies” not connected to the sewer system, but the code allows the council to approve exceptions for up to a year at a time.

Two weeks ago, the churches appealed to the council and asked the city to develop standards for allowing portable toilets. The council discussed it for a bit before Mayor Sharon Konopa referred the issue to the city staff for a report on the ramifications for the council to consider.

She told me at the time she hoped for the report to be ready this week. But it’s not. There are complications. One of them is that the city has permanent portable toilets in several city parks, and the city code will have to be amended in order to keep them there. Or the council has to act to allow each one from year to year.

The council has talked about what has happened in Seattle and other cities overwhelmed with people living on the streets. The city manager has called attention to “Seattle Is Dying,” a documentary produced by KOMO-TV and available on YouTube.

After showing how downtown Seattle has been affected by lawless street life brought on by drug use and mental illness, the program also reports how Providence, R.I., seemingly solved the problem: By confining violators and giving them medications to overcome their addictions.

Albany doesn’t have anything close to the problems the KOMO video shows. Not yet anyway. And the mayor doesn’t want to do anything, like allowing a portable toilet, that might make it easier for people to exist on the street instead of going to shelters where they could possibly get some help. (hh)

27 responses to “This is what Albany wants to discourage”

  1. Beth Victors says:

    And exactly how much money has Albany wasted on un-needed renovations to tiny parts of just a few streets and the lights downtown to please the business owners. How many vacant buildings and 2nd/3rd floors are downtown? Think of what the city could have done for the homeless with just a portion of that cash…..Albany’s priorities seem a little arse-backward to me.

    • Dennis jones says:

      I agree idk what was wrong down town. It didnt need all that work. There is only so much room at the shelter and its filled with s.o. people not everyone wants to live with sex offenders we need more alternatives

    • J. Jacobson says:

      Sorry Beth, but it is always more pleasant to subsidize folks that already have money (think CARA). That’s cuz they don’t really need it.

    • J.Jacobson says:

      The Commenter is spot-on. On the other hand, Albany is in desperate need of a gluten-free, vegan dining emporium downtown. Spend the money to feed the neuroses of the privileged. Let those less fortunate fend for themselves.

    • Tim O'Toole says:

      Pleasing business owners and other taxpayers is important! The people who build and maintain a society deserve to benefit from a clean, attractive hometown–a place where they are not mobbed by able-bodied homeless people. Albany is finally becoming a nice place to live, and that is a fact. Anyone who has seen the town change over the last 20 years should agree that the town has become safer, has more services and employers, and is generally a better place for a working person to live or simply visit and explore. Thank goodness Albany isn’t the scary, blighted, ugly place it was 20 years ago. When I drive through downtown on my way home, the town glows with new lights, shoppers walk the streets visiting local businesses, quality construction projects are underway. I love it.

      Cities must grow and improve, refining and evolving their civic character. Otherwise they decline and decay because the business owners and taxpaying residents leave for a town that is growing and improving. Improve a city’s roads and lighting, clean it up, staff the police department well, take minor and major crimes seriously, and you will make it a nice place to live for every honest person, rich and poor. This is really simple stuff and has been known since ancient times. Our society’s attempts to help the homeless mostly consists of enabling them to remain homeless by intermittently providing pitiful meals and scary shelters. I think Habitat for Humanity’s tiny house village is a great plan and has the potential to solve and not perpetuate our homeless problem.

  2. Sandra rodriguez says:

    So let’s let them poop and pea in the streets.so they always speak about what they don’t want but never ever have I heard of a resolution. They say they want them to go to a shelter, there isn’t enough of them to go around, so now what if I was homeless and it is very possible I would use any alcove I could find to keep away from the elements

  3. Gordon L. Shadle says:

    This article is misleading. I don’t see causation here.

    There is no indication in your article that the existence of a privy resulted in Jason camping on church property. Nor is there any indication that the existence of a privy made it easier for him to live on the streets.

    What is indicated is Jason waiting for an “agency” to find him a place to stay.

    Isn’t that what Albany wants to happen?

    The only problem I see here is lag time. Eliminate the delay in placement and Jason doesn’t camp anywhere.

  4. Thats Just Me says:

    The shelters constantly have bed bugs I don’t want that spread around where I get it at my house by me visiting the same public places the homeless do.

  5. thomas cordier says:

    Gordon is correct. There is no cause-and-effect relationship between potty placement and living on street. Policies that are based on false connections are rampant; e.g. gun restrictions = lower crime, gov’t run
    health insurance = better outcomes, more spending on K-12 education will improve student learning. All bogus.

    • Lexis says:

      Jason and his wife are members of First Christian. They are valuable to us along with the many other people the church feeds in our free community dinner every

  6. Michael Dee says:

    Albany commits zero effort to help the homeless. Those three houses that keep coming up, they kicked out over 30 people and offered them nothing but the winter’s cold. The porta potty excuse, the city has allowed one at Memorial school by Elm and 20th for at least six years for the baseball practice field. It seems to me the City of Albany cites rules selectively and appears the city is the enemy of the homeless.

  7. Craigz says:

    “CAMPING”, that is NOT camping. That is trespassing, littering and irresponsible behavior. Time for some honesty; many of these homeless are young able bodied humans that (many) have chosen not to be part of a productive society. Time to get a job and make something of yourself. A City on the East Coast has found a solution for homelessness; drug treatment programs combined with job assistance/instruction. It works for those that are willing to stay the course. As far as portable toilets, the City should place a few in downtown areas, it’s better than letting it all out in the bushes. Back to “camping”; camping is when you set up a tent or an RV in a legal wilderness area or a campground and pay a fee for your temporary stay.

    • Jim Thomas says:

      Well said. While issues such as mental illness and addiction clearly play a role, I believe that there is also an element of choice. There are indeed people who choose this lifestyle and have no interest in being responsible, contributing members of society. Their poor choices should not inconvenience everyone else or force us to support them. All you have to do is look around, there are “help wanted” signs everywhere you turn. Anyone who wants a job can find one.

  8. Parcella Provence says:

    I am particularly concerned about the money spent to add overhead strung new street lights downtown on blocks that already had 3 lights each. Hello.

  9. Mary Pahlman says:

    Instead of pushing the homeless out of Albany, try building a better homeless shelter for the homeless people who had no choice but to be homeless due to the cost of rentals & having to have at least 2 or 3 jobs just to stay off the streets…… Not all the homeless is drug addicts. Walk a mile in there shoes before judging.

  10. Stacey Bartholomew, President, Creating Housing Coalition says:

    Unfortunately, it is far easier to generalize a situation than it is to look at the full picture. I noticed that all the other responses have also commented on the need (homelessness) not being addressed and instead blame is getting thrown around. I would think that if the person you are using as an example were to read your slant, he would be able to present the situation more fully and correct some of your assumptions.

    That is what we all need to do – challenge our assumptions so we can deal with the issues more proactively. Shame that we feel when we see another human in this situation can be pushed onto the person or transformed into moral action.

    Feel free to join several others in this community working to address this issue of housing every 1st and 3rd Tuesday at 1pm at the downtown Habitat for Humanity office 315 Lyon. We are working to bring a tiny house village to Albany to address this exact need that will allow individuals and couples to have the dignity of contributing to their own wellbeing and not be a government burden. Come make a moral difference.

    • Monica says:

      That is awesome! Unfortunately the timing is difficult for most of us. But I would love to hear more about this. Sick of people blaming the homeless for moral failings and sick of the city wanting to sweep it under the rug and do nothing but complain. No resolutions. Glad to hear tiny homes first!!!

      • Stacey Bartholomew says:

        Thank you for your support. Please feel free to share with others and if you would like to have more info, please message me on facebook!

    • Brad says:

      Stacey, is there a place on the net that explains what you’re doing, where it’s at, the progress, etc? I can’t seem to find anything about it online and I’m definitely interested in hearing more about a tiny home village for the homeless around here.

      • Stacey Bartholomew says:

        We are working on a web-page and can send you a newsletter that is already ready to an email of your choice. Please find me on facebook

      • Stacey Bartholomew says:

        Thanks for your support Monica. Please feel free to share this information with others. Also, if you want more info please message me on facebook

  11. Nonya Business says:

    I am an able bodied non drug addict homeless. I work regularly and take up odd jobs. I called csc and they told me because I didn’t sleep on the street last night cuz i have friends who help occasionally I didn’t qualify for the program. Two shelters in Albany and no real transitional homes for people working. They don’t want to help homeless they wanna pretend they don’t exist.

    • centrist says:

      A son has been “homeless” for many a month while fully employed. Earnings covered food, but not lodging. couch surfed and lived in his vehicle.
      Not a choice by any means. Not a lifestyle choice by any means.
      Simple economics

  12. Richard Vannice says:

    Regarding J. Jacobson’s comment on a gluten free and or vegan restaurant. Before you make these kinds of remarks check on line under CELIAC DISEASE. I have first hand knowledge of the effects that wheat, barley, rye and oats (if they have been harvested with machines that harvested the first three grains. Some have to eat gluten free of suffer severe consequences.
    Diabetics often have difficulty in dining out due to their insulin problems as do people with other maladies

    • J. Jacobson says:

      The intent of my comment was not to belittle those who suffer from Celiacs, rather to elicit consideration as to the cost-benefit analysis of Albany taxpayers being coerced into spending their hard earned dollars on subsidies for restaurants of ANY sort, versus spending those same dollars on providing a semblance of a home for those truly in desperate situations. The website, Food Republic, said this about Celiacs.
      “The disease, genetic in origin, affects a reported three million Americans (one percent of the population).” Under the CARA Theory of generous subsidies for nearly any business activity one can jam into downtown the net effect is, sufferers of Celiacs are the same as the very wealthy, in the Top One Percent of beneficiaries. Again, just asking if the Cost-Benefit analysis has been thought through. Seems maybe not.

  13. J. Jacobson says:


    Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

    4 Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.

    5 Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.

    6 Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.

    7 Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.

    8 Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.

    9 Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.

    etcetera, etcetera, etcetera…

  14. Amanda Bressler says:

    If you want to learn about preventing homelessness in Albany, the main branch of the Albany Public Library is hosting an event with Jackson Street Youth Services on Tuesday, May 28, 7-8 p.m. They’ll be talking about issues and interventions for young people who are at risk of, or already experiencing, homelessness and how the community can get involved.


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