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The following is presented as part of The Columbian’s Opinion content, which offers a point of view in order to provoke thought and debate of civic issues. Opinions represent the viewpoint of the author. Unsigned editorials represent the consensus opinion of The Columbian’s editorial board, which operates independently of the news department.

Letter: Homelessness is criminal problem

By Ben Grobe-Heintz, VANCOUVER
Published: November 18, 2023, 6:00am

I’m dismayed by the use of the term “homelessness” in the city of Vancouver’s recent emergency declaration for problems more closely associated with a completely broken criminal justice system that invites people addicted to drugs and/or the mentally ill to live on the streets and push the envelope of bad behavior well beyond what would be tolerated in almost any type of housing and far, far, beyond legal limits.

A direct-supervision jail with built-in mental health and addiction treatment, and behavior modification programs, as options for people that want shorter sentences could substantially fix our local criminal justice system. Those on the left could call it a treatment center, those on the right could call it a work camp. Win-win. Unfortunately, in 2019, our local elected officials found the cost of a similar proposal by a blue-ribbon commission “untenable.”

Clark County’s current jail remodel plan and the city of Vancouver’s emergency order are cheap facades of a durable solution, which would be expensive, but we could redirect funds currently paid to homeless service providers for toxic compassion and NIMBY shaming, and longer-term savings would likely be gargantuan.

We encourage readers to express their views about public issues. Letters to the editor are subject to editing for brevity and clarity. Limit letters to 200 words (100 words if endorsing or opposing a political candidate or ballot measure) and allow 30 days between submissions. Send Us a Letter