We're not sure if Ashland has a reputation among the homeless/transient crowd of being a patsy, but we are sure there remains a problem downtown with members of that crowd congregating in large numbers and occasionally making life difficult for visitors and residents alike.
An observation from last weekend speaks volumes: A large group of apparently transient or homeless people, with several dogs (uniformly pit bulls) were staked out on the sidewalk on Winburn Way, immediately across the street from Lithia Park. They didn't appear to be threatening anyone, although they did take up a sizable portion of the sidewalk.
What was striking was the reaction of people walking on the sidewalk. As they approached the group, two women stopped and turned around. Two other couples stopped and then cut across the street, obviously to avoid the group. This occurred in a matter of 90 seconds, but was no doubt repeated in some form many more times throughout the day.
The city is planning to increase its court days to deal with complaints of various petty crimes and violations committed by members of the transient assemblage. The Ashland Chamber asked for the increase, and rightly so, based on the effect these folks have on the downtown. Unfortunately, they have that effect even when obeying the law.
People have a right to hang out. They don't have a right to harass or intimidate others and anything the city can do to keep that in check is worth the effort.