A year ago in Aberdeen, the primary conversation throughout the city was about homelessness, the city manager said Monday.
“It’s gone,” Randy Robertson told members of the Aberdeen City Council at their meeting Monday night, during Police Chief Henry Trabert’s presentation on crime statistics in the last year.
“Now I’m not saying we’ve gotten rid of homelessness, but all that conversation, all that noise, all the passion that was brought to this table through [Trabert] and other staff in the city, we fixed that problem,” Robertson said.
At nearly every council meeting last winter, particularly during stretches of bitter cold weather, residents asked what the city was doing about the homeless population — not only how to help them, but also how to get them to move out of town.
One of the largest, and most visible, homeless encampments was along Route 22 near Rogers Street, a wooded area between the street and the CSX Railroad tracks.
Aberdeen Police officers checked in on the residents there at least three times a day (once each shift) not only to make sure they were OK, but also to ensure other city residents were protected, Trabert said at the time. last year.
The City Council went so far as to propose an ordinance that would impose a $50 fine one homeless people living in tents or other “temporary dwellings.”
But amid public outcry that it would be counterproductive to fine people who didn’t have any money, otherwise they wouldn’t be homeless, the council declined to vote on the ordinance.
"To prolong this would only create more contention and misunderstanding," Councilman Melvin Taylor said during the council’s debate over the ordinance.
Robertson credited Trabert and the rest of the police department for working with the homeless in the city.
“The conversation went on for months,” Robertson said. “If you let the professionals do the job they’re hired to do, they’ll deliver.”
Trabert said police, county organizations and churches worked together.
“We all provided safe places for people who didn’t have a safe place to go, providing them meals, tickets for transportation,” Trabert said. “I believe many, many of them have found places to stay, shelters to stay warm, so I think this was a very successful year in taking care of our homeless population.”
At least one resident disagreed, however.
Bob Hartman, who lives on Paradise Road, said the Route 22/Rogers Street encampment may be gone, but homeless people are still in the city, including near Route 715 where trees have been cut down and by Golden Corral.
“We’re trying to get people to come into our community. Yes, we used to have them outside our doorstep here at city hall, now they’ve moved someplace else. All of a sudden now, to me, this county has forgotten about the homeless here in Aberdeen,” Hartman said.