City manager discusses homeless issues and local business
By City Manager, Rachelle Rickard
–Homelessness is an extremely complex social problem that has become a pervasive problem throughout not only our own community, but is impacting communities throughout California. Some individuals have found themselves in a temporary homeless situation through no real fault of their own, other than having fallen on economic hard times. However, others may be living on the street as a result of substance abuse, mental illness, or both.
Being homeless is not a crime. However, certain types of unbecoming conduct sometimes associated with the transient population are illegal, can have a detrimental impact on local businesses, and should be reported to the Atascadero Police Department (APD). Such conduct includes public intoxication, loitering, prowling, fighting, trespassing, aggressive panhandling, soliciting, camping or sleeping in parks, littering, obstructing sidewalks, living in a vehicle parked on a public street, disturbing the peace, or behaving in a threatening manner.
If these types of issues are affecting your business, please speak with the APD. If warranted, file an annual “Letter of Authority“, which will authorize officers to enter your property to investigate suspicious activity and to arrest people who are trespassing or committing a crime. If you do file a Letter of Authority, you must also be sure to post highly visible no trespassing signs. The APD can provide information regarding the legal specifications required for these signs.
When dealing with homeless citizens and transients, guidelines from the APD ask that you use caution and avoid confrontations. Do not offer food or money, which may only encourage additional panhandling. It is much better to contribute to local charities, missions, food banks, or social service organizations that provide services to assist those in need. Do not permit anyone to camp, loiter or store personal belongings on your property.
APD also suggests restricting overnight access to outdoor areas that are protected from inclement weather; locking or removing handles from water spigots; keeping trash dumpsters locked when not being filled or emptied; securing outside storage sheds or containers; locking exterior power outlets; locking gates after hours; installing motion-activated exterior lighting and trimming landscaping which blocks views, lighting, or camera coverage.
In addition, maintain the property and keep it free of litter and junk. Design outdoor public amenities such as benches to be comfortable for sitting but not for sleeping. Post signs detailing nighttime curfews and prohibitions of loitering, illegal lodging, drinking alcoholic beverages and drug activities which state that anyone engaged in prohibited conduct will be asked to leave the property, and that failure to do so will result in a call to the APD. If feasible, install surveillance cameras and have security personnel patrol the property at random times.
More suggestions are available at the Atascadero Police Department, and some important contact phone numbers are listed below.
Atascadero Police Department (805) 461-5051
Atascadero Fire Department (805) 461-5070
Code Enforcement (805) 470-3248
Shopping Carts (805) 470-3148
Graffiti Abatement (805) 470-3148
As always, if you have questions regarding this or other topics concerning the city, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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