Camp Aberdeen [Editorial]

There are still homeless people living in Aberdeen.

City officials acknowledged as much during a recent update on the homeless encampment that blighted a main entrance to downtown before it was cleared out by police and city staff last year.

“Now I’m not saying we’ve gotten rid of homelessness, but all of that conversation, all that noise, all the passion that was brought to this table through [Police Chief Henry Trabert] and other staff in the city, we fixed that problem,” City Manager Randy Robertson told the mayor and city council last week.

For a number of winters, homeless people have put up tents and created highly visible homeless villages in the area of Route 22 and the Rogers Street off ramp. For a couple of winters, tents were staked in the woods on the west side of the tracks, making them easily seen by eastbound traffic on Route 22.

Then, they moved to the east side of Aberdeen, setting up camp within sight of Route 22 on that side of the city. At that encampment, two homeless people died in a fire caused by a heater in their tent.

Before long, that camp was gone, replaced by one on the west side of Route 22 in a small patch of woods on Rogers Street where it stayed until last year when city officials could no longer ignore it.

Trabert took an interest in the homeless people living in the camp and started regular police checks to make sure everyone was okay. His humanitarian approach was the right tack.

In contrast, Mayor Patrick McGrady and the City Council entertained the notion of fining the homeless $50 for each time police saw them as a way of getting them to move on.

Cooler heads prevailed and that proposal died, but not before attracting region-wide attention to Aberdeen that proved to be worse than the localized mess gathered in the Rogers Street woods.

Homelessness, and the many problems it poses, spreads far beyond Aberdeen. There are other places, which are not campgrounds, where tents pop up in Harford County.

Numerous churches and organizations do plenty to help the county’s homeless population, and have done so for years. So does the county government.

No matter how much is done, homelessness isn’t going to end because it’s a complicated matter with many diverse root causes. One of the toughest hurdles to clear is that not everyone who is homeless wants help. Nor do they all want to take advantage of the various opportunities to get off the streets or out of the woods.

There are a few tents in the woods off of Route 40 in south Aberdeen, a reminder that the problem still exists.

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