COEUR d'ALENE - A nuisance hotline, neighborhood watch and photographing repeat offenders.
These could help address issues with the Fresh Start homeless service facility on east Sherman Avenue, said Mike Kennedy, Coeur d'Alene City Council member, on Wednesday night.
"The goal is, how do we improve the situation right now, while we work at long-term strategies?" said Kennedy.
His suggestions were made while mitigating a meeting between east Sherman area businesses, residents and Fresh Start representatives at City Hall.
The city legal department is still investigating how many harassment and disorderly problems originate at Fresh Start, Kennedy said.
In the meantime, he said, neighbors can help collect information.
"There is a legitimate legal case that needs to be built, as to whether Fresh Start is the problem," he said. "We don't know that yet."
Kennedy announced that he has established a new hotline, 758-0608, where folks can leave messages describing any property or general harassment issues, so the city can analyze common problems.
He also suggested that in low-risk situations, residents take photos of individuals causing any problems. Those folks can potentially be trespassed, he said, or turned away from Fresh Start for violating its behavior rules.
Kennedy also provided a new e-mail address, firstname.lastname@example.org, where folks can share photos and anecdotes that will be viewed by Kennedy, city law enforcement and the Fresh Start board.
"The intention is to gather information, gather data," Kennedy said.
He would also like to see block watch leaders created in the near future, he added.
The roughly 40 individuals present raised varying opinions of these ideas, as well as some of their own.
Sam Wallin, who owns several units in the east Sherman area, argued that policing the area shouldn't be put on neighbors' shoulders.
"Why should we do that? The problem is Fresh Start," he said.
He thinks the nonprofit should simply leave its location of two years at 1524 E. Sherman Ave.
"Should we all move? Is that simpler than Fresh Start moving?" Wallin said.
Carolyn Lingard, who lives near Fresh Start, said she is afraid to let her children play in the front yard because of homeless individuals who frequently pass by.
She would like to see Fresh Start require all clients to show ID, she said, to ensure proper background checks.
"At least knowing who they are, you know who you're dealing with," she said.
Rev. Pat Bell, Fresh Start board president, said that's an idea the board is looking at.
Rocco Zito said he has had trouble renting out units in the area because of loitering homeless individuals.
He suggested the county and city just put them to work.
"Let them (the two governments) pay for it," Zito said. "Why should I have to pay for it?"
The city doesn't have any extra jobs to give out, Kennedy pointed out.
"It sounds simple and lovely, but we have a real-world situation," he said.
Fresh Start volunteer Suzanne Henderson said she has seen individuals get jobs by using Fresh Start services, like the free hair cuts she provides.
She criticized those who were frightened of the drop-in center bringing in people with criminal backgrounds.
"You can't shut somebody out because of something they did. We all have rights," she said. "In 24 hours, you could be a client at Fresh Start. Any of us could."
The nonprofit is willing to move, Bell said.
It simply isn't plausible at this point, he said, now that Fresh Start has a 7-year lease.
"We're in a place where we have a good facility," he said. "We don't have anywhere else to go."
This was the latest of a series of meetings about Fresh Start, the drop-in center that provides services like laundry, snacks, Internet and showers for homeless individuals.
Neighboring residents and business owners have complained about clients loitering and harassing people. A petition collected 60 signatures supporting Fresh Start's relocation.
Fresh Start staff insists the troublemakers are a fraction of the thousands who rely on the nonprofit each year.
Kennedy pointed out that there are long-term goals to end homelessness completely in Coeur d'Alene, as well as revitalize east Sherman Avenue.
"That won't happen overnight," he said.
He proposed having these meetings about Fresh Start and homelessness every month.
"This is not going to be easy to solve," he said. "If we close Fresh Start tomorrow, it's not going to go away."