In the ongoing battle against Puyallup’s New Hope Resources Center, you can’t help but occasionally see pale shades of The Donald.
Some of the themes are strikingly similar: fear mixing with anger, resulting in delusion about what will Make Puyallup Great Again.
The latest development in this ongoing saga occurred recently, when Puyallup’s Development Services Department — in a move surely influenced by the growing homelessness fervor outside City Hall — released a draft proposal full of potential new safety procedures New Hope might have to adopt to get right with its designation as a “high-impact business.”
Most are straightforward, such as the strengthening of New Hope’s code of conduct, along with new fencing and lighting and the removal of picnic tables from the public right of way.
Other items on the list are debatable, such as the need for security guards at the center — which could cost New Hope in the ballpark of $7,500 a month, according to a member of its board — and a requirement to set up a 24-hour hotline for complaints. (Prepared to push back against some of the proposed rules, New Hope has recruited Tacoma civil rights attorney John Purbaugh and the Seattle-based Northwest Justice Project.)
For perspective on this, currently New Hope Resources Center – a nonprofit staffed almost exclusively by volunteers – is open a for grand total of 16 hours a week. It’s also the only service provider in town specifically for individuals experiencing homelessness. It undertakes this endeavor with limited funding, including nothing from the city of Puyallup. And it does so in a county that just released the findings of a lengthy behavioral health study that concluded homelessness resources, on the whole, are woefully lacking.
For perspective on these rules, let’s consider what New Hope Resources Center is: a nonprofit staffed almost exclusively by volunteers, open for a grand total of 16 hours a week. It’s also the only service provider in town specifically for those experiencing homelessness, undertaking this endeavor with limited funding, including nothing from the city of Puyallup. And it does so in a county that just released the findings of a lengthy behavioral health study that concluded homelessness resources are woefully lacking.
On a meeting on Monday, former Puyallup Mayor Kathy Turner ratcheted up the demands, calling for New Hope security guards be licensed, bonded and in uniform — a stipulation that wouldn’t just be onerous, but also would far exceed anything done in Tacoma at facilities like the Tacoma Rescue Mission men’s shelter, which often sleeps 145 to 200 people a night.
A skeptic might be tempted to wonder if the city even wants New Hope there.
Among the general citizenry — or at least those who show up at public meetings or post about the issue online — the message often seems crystal clear. And it’s this negative energy that increasingly seems to be guiding the conversation.
“Good job New Hope … Lawyer up and try to force yourself on the people of Puyallup with judicial force,” reads one recent comment on the Clean Up Puyallup Facebook page. “Certainly that will endear you to the people of Puyallup who have already suffered from the criminal element that you have drawn to the area.”
“Puyallup council needs to wake up,” reads another. “Some innocent kid is going to get hurt. I blame New Hope for bringing the problem to Puyallup, and city of Puyallup for allowing New Hope to operate the way they are.”
I’m surprised no one has called for a wall to be built, at New Hope’s expense.
You might recall in April, when the City Council voted to approve high-impact business license requirements for homeless services providers — the decision that birthed the proposed requirements now at issue. The rationale, which in some ways is sound, relies on the premise that operations like New Hope have significant impacts in the neighborhoods they call home.
The four other types of businesses that fall into Puyallup’s “high-impact” business license category? Those would be airports, hazardous waste processors, residential facilities for sex offenders and places where explosives are manufactured.
I’ll let you do what you want with this list.
It’s undeniable that homeless populations present challenges, and any location that caters specifically to the homeless is bound to experience some of them. There is an impact — even a high one — to the important work New Hope does.
It’s also impossible not to be sympathetic for Puyallup residents and neighboring businesses faced with issues like public urination and defecation, drug use, untreated mental illness and small-time property crimes. These issues are real, and it’s appropriate for the people of Puyallup to demand they be addressed.
But that also brings us back to fear, anger, false equivalencies and useless chicken-and-egg question so often employed when discussing homelessness, the many health and human safety problems it presents and the service providers trying to make a difference:
What came first, Puyallup’s growing homeless population or New Hope Center?
And if we get rid of the latter, will the former disappear?
The answer is no.
“The data kind of speaks for itself,” says police spokesman Scott Engle, noting the number of times police have responded to the center in the past two years, said to be in excess of 300. He acknowledges that the department generally has a positive relationship with New Hope and is “definitely a place where we are able to connect people with resources,” while also saying, “there are probably some things they can do to help them be a better neighbor.”
Their impacts are not even close to some of the impacts we’ve seen … from other service providers in that realm. From our perspective, we would like to work with New Hope to get some things under control.
Puyallup Police Spokesman Scott Engle
“Their impacts are not even close to some of the impacts we’ve seen … from other service providers in that realm,” Engle says. “From our perspective, we would like to work with New Hope to get some things under control.”
That’s fair. Good-faith teamwork is essential. That’s what the community should be rallying behind.
After all, there’s a big difference between finding constructive, workable ways for New Hope to be better neighbor, and a group of angry citizens hoping to push the center out of town in an attempt to return Puyallup to some sort of pre-homelessness heyday.
Because while it might be tempting for the angriest, most fed-up of residents to believe these problems would all go away if New Hope closed its door, the reality of the homelessness crisis facing Puyallup, and our entire region, surely suggests otherwise.