There are many potential solutions to the problem of homelessness — more and better-paying jobs, more affordable housing, more shelters. None of those is easily accomplished, although efforts are underway to create more housing and provide more shelter beds. Meanwhile, the city of Ashland continues to pursue a policy that is not a solution: citing people for illegal camping.
In a three-part series in the Tidings that concluded Thursday, free-lance writer Julie Akins reported the city issued 576 illegal camping citations from 2015 through the end of October. Of that number, 71 citations were dismissed or settled because the person paid the fine. The vast majority, 358, of those cited never showed up in court — hardly a surprise — and were cited for failure to appear. In 187 cases, fines were assessed but the offenders did not pay and the cases were sent to collection.
It should come as no surprise that illegal camping and homeless people congregating in public places continue to be a problem. The city attorney's office insists police are not citing people so they will leave town, which is a good thing because if that were the goal, it's not working.
The city has a legitimate interest in reducing the number of homeless people living on the streets, because they pose a risk to public health and safety as well as their own. But it makes little sense to cite people for sleeping on public property or in their own cars when they have no alternative.