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Aberdeen's homeless dilemma [Editorial]

A homeless camp with several tents is set up in the wooded area along North Rogers Street not far from city hall and the library in Aberdeen. The city’s police chief wants to move the residents out, but not until he finds another location.
A homeless camp with several tents is set up in the wooded area along North Rogers Street not far from city hall and the library in Aberdeen. The city’s police chief wants to move the residents out, but not until he finds another location. (MATT BUTTON | AEGIS STAFF/Baltimore Sun)

Aberdeen city officials' hearts are in the right place when they say they want to do something to reasonably accommodate their city's growing homeless population.

Realistically speaking, however, what approach can they take to satisfy everyone with a stake in the outcome? Talk about the devil being in the details.

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Everyone in an official capacity – Police Chief Henry Trabert, Mayor Patrick McGrady, City Council members – seems to be in agreement that the homeless encampment in the woods along Rogers Street has to be moved. But where? And how?

Trabert made it clear at a recent council meeting that the people who are living in tents along Rogers Street aren't going to leave the area and will most likely find another location, probably in the city.

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Finding someplace for them that everyone can agree on is, well, likely to be nigh impossible, but that doesn't mean it isn't worth trying.

The Rogers Street encampment is a bedeviling perfect storm.

Ownership of the property is not clear, according to the mayor, and whoever does own it isn't around Aberdeen.

The site is convenient to downtown and to local churches that provide meals to encampment residents and others, and it's inconvenient for some residents who have understandably complained about trash, including in Festival Park which is two blocks from the encampment.

And, when you are working to revitalize your downtown core, as Aberdeen officials are, it doesn't help your efforts to attract investment when there's a tent city practically on the doorstep of City Hall.

While Trabert formulates his plan to relocate the encampment, police continue to check on the residents there, as well as the four to five other pockets of homeless people in Aberdeen, at least three times a day, he said.

This is proactive to avoid potential problems, but it's also a drain on the resources of a police department that has faced staffing issues in the past year and has had to deal with some pretty serious crimes that have no connection to the city's homeless population.

Relocating the encampment means finding a property whose owner doesn't object and then hoping the neighborhood doesn't object, as well. And, when official sanctioning is involved, it obviously brings up issues such as zoning, sanitation and public health.

There's also the question of can you force these unfortunate people to leave and also have them agree to accept a new location?

More than the citizens of Aberdeen will be watching this one play out. We guarantee it.

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