By RACHELLE RICKARD
ATASCADERO CITY MANAGER
Homelessness is an unfortunate and extremely complex social issue that has become a pervasive concern throughout the country and state, as well as in our community.
Often, decent and law-abiding citizens find themselves temporarily homeless through no real fault of their own, other than having fallen on economic hard times for any number or combination of legitimate reasons. It is essential to remember that homelessness, in and of itself, is not a crime. Individuals absolutely should not, and rightfully cannot be arrested simply for being homeless.
However, some individuals may be living on the streets by choice or due to illicit substance abuse, mental illness, or both. There are certain types of undesirable actions sometimes associated with the transient population, such as trespassing, panhandling, soliciting, littering, drug use, and vandalism; that are illegal, can have a detrimental impact on local businesses and which should be reported immediately to the Atascadero Police Department.
In response to reports of some of these types of activities being committed in the area by a small group of transients as well as some local teenage schoolchildren, the City has taken actions to help ensure that our beautiful downtown remains a welcoming environment that may be fully appreciated by everyone. Recently, all of the City’s Public Works Department Streets & Parks crew, along with additional temporary hires, spent a full week cleaning up the Atascadero Creek bed near the downtown core, removing trash, weeds, small trees and branches and filling nearly a dozen roll-off dumpsters with refuse. Also, the City is installing video surveillance cameras in strategic locations and the Police Department has focused officer presence throughout many areas of town, including near Centennial Plaza and Bridge, City Hall and Sunken Gardens.
The Atascadero Historical Society is also raising funds to install motion-activated cameras and security lights of their own, to help deter vandalism and other illegal activities from taking place near the historic Colony House Museum.
All of our residents, schoolchildren, business owners and their staff members, along with visitors to our community, rightfully deserve to be able to safely and securely enjoy everything our beautiful and unique downtown area has to offer. Therefore, we highly encourage our residents and business owners to become more actively involved in ensuring this is possible by working together with the City, the Police Department and local parent and community groups or service organizations to help address any ongoing concerns.
As always, if you have any questions regarding this or other City-related topics, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.