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Free showers for homeless end at Seaside city pool

SEASIDE, Ore. (AP) — A 2-year-old voucher program that allowed homeless people to get free hot showers at the city pool in Seaside has come to an end because authorities are worried about risks to children and others who might be vulnerable.

A Seaside officer using the pool recognized people with vouchers as "known criminals up to and including registered sex offenders," as well as drug users, Police Chief Bob Gross said. Another officer discovered a handful of vouchers on a person taken into custody, Gross said.

In response, the local parks and recreation board stopped sending the vouchers to service organizations, churches and other agencies for distribution to needy people, the Daily Astorian (http://bit.ly/1o9aV2P) reported.

The board's decision doesn't prevent people with criminal backgrounds from using the showers. Any member of the public can shower there for $2.

But General Manager Justin Cutler told the board the district might be responsible if someone were hurt.

"We're inevitably facilitating contact with minors," he said. "...We're actively facilitating the access of miscreants into our facility."

The board has asked Cutler to work with other organizations to see whether it's feasible to build a shower facility for vulnerable individuals and families.

Angela Fairless, a local activist instrumental in starting the voucher program, said she was disappointed but not surprised.

"I think there are a lot of problems surrounding keeping our kids safe and dealing with the homeless ... but just throwing away a program that benefits many people because a few people cause problems is giving up and taking the easy way out," Fairless said.

Seaside is a city of about 6,500 and a popular tourist destination on the north Oregon coast.

At least 117 vouchers had been distributed so far this year, Cutler said. The program was supported by donations.

The shelter organization Helping Hands said it provides free showers Tuesdays and Thursdays in Seaside, and it screens people just as if they were checking into the shelter.

"This creates a safer environment for all," Executive Director Alan Evans said. "This is the place people needing a shower should come."


Information from: The Daily Astorian, http://www.dailyastorian.com

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