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Homeless in Brawley give city a poor image

April 09, 2007

QUESTION: Why does the city of Brawley allow a group of homeless people to set up camp in a small park as you enter the city on Highway 86 from El Centro?

It seems to me that is the wrong image for the city, especially in a little park so close to the downtown.

It’s not that I think the homeless should be thrown to the wolves, but Brawley needs to think about its image and its future.

There are places for the homeless to go and the city needs to direct the homeless to these places.

Just like El Centro has had a homeless task force, now I think the city of Brawley needs one. — Tired of Eye Sore, Brawley

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This is a difficult question but it is a good one.

Brawley is far from the only city that must deal with the issue of the homeless.

Go through the city of El Centro and while you may not see the homeless in parks, you’ll see they’ve set up camp near local businesses off some major roadways.

But we do know what you are talking about in relation to the park you are mentioning, which, by the way, is Jeff Kissee Park. It is named after a longtime public works director in the city.

We have seen homeless in the park with their tents and other belongings, and, we agree with you, it doesn’t look good at a city entry point — in particular as the city is trying to grow and bring in new businesses.

We spoke to Brawley City Councilwoman Jo Shields about this.

She acknowledged it is an issue, one that has been going on for years.

She said the homeless like that park because it is near Subway, and they are able to go into the trash bins behind Subway and get food. She said there also is access to water there and shade.

She said it is a safe place for them to be and that’s why they stay.

Here’s our take on it. While we agree with you there are better places for the homeless to go to find shelter, we know they are not going to go to such places because they don’t like the restrictions.

So, the question is what do you do with the homeless?

The answer is you monitor them as much as you can but you cannot continuously run them out of town.

We also would say it is better that they are at Jeff Kissee Park, which is not used by the city’s youths, than other parks that are used by kids.

In the end, it probably is wrong for the city’s image and if the city ever rids itself of the true eyesore, that old water plant — and brings in new commercial development at the site — we bet the homeless would naturally move from the area.

Shields made one other point, which has merit. You have to have some compassion for these people when you consider what to do with them. Just a thought.

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