City hears concern about homeless

Alex Hattenhauer showed the above photo and others to The Dalles City Council Monday to show the messes left on his property by transients. His property covers a number of acres on West First Street, and the transient camps are on land north of the public outdoor pool. Contributed photo

A property owner near downtown told The Dalles City Council Monday that transient problems have spiked in recent years and his land has become “a prime transient homeless camp.”

Alex Hattenhauer, CEO of Hattenhauer Distributing Co., said he’d worked at the business, located in the 200 block of West First Street, for 20 years.

He said the problem with the homeless has ballooned in the last two years.

“The last couple years there’s been a real influx of homeless in the city. It’s a topic of conversation,” Hattenhauer said.

He distributed photos of the various messes left behind by transients on his property.

“Over the years people have come and gone and they’ve been pretty tidy,” Hattenhauer said. He added that now the problem “seems more extreme.”

He said he had empathy for the homeless, but also said “they have to have some respect for society and people’s property.”

He told the council that he felt bad calling police about trespassers, since they were invariably gone by the time officers arrived.

He said building a fence around his 7.5-acre property would be complicated and “very costly” since the property line isn’t entirely clear and there are multiple ownerships in the area, including the railroad and the state.

“It’d be a major undertaking to fence that off,” he said.

“I’m not really here to complain,” Hattenhauer told the council. He said it was a “concern” he was raising.

“The problem is here in the city. I wanted to bring it to light and hopefully people are talking about it,” he said.

Mayor Steve Lawrence said a task force was formed by the city that is focused on the homeless issue. Councilor Tim McGlothlin heads the task force and said it was created because of problems around the area of the St. Vincent de Paul office on Third Street.

The task force plans to trim trees and improve lighting to discourage loitering in that area and along Mill Creek. McGlothlin said feces is a problem because the homeless are restricted from businesses during the day, and places are closed at night.

Lewis and Clark Festival Park, for example, was finally locked at night by the city because of

vandalism from transients.

McGlothlin said the Warming Place, a temporary shelter for the homeless that only opens on very cold nights, had “all-time high” usage in December, with over 20 people staying.

The amount of people going to Community Meals was steadily around 17-18, but in the past he’s seen it as high as 40, 50, or 60 people.

Complaints about transients spiked last spring and into the fall, but have dropped off since.

McGlothlin said Hattenhauer could perhaps find some help.

Hattenhauer said most of the unwelcome behavior takes place at night, and he’s come to the property during business hours to find feces and

syringes along with garbage.

He expressed hesitation about confronting people on his property.

“I don’t want to make someone mad so they vandalize my property,” he said.Lawrence said Hattenhauer didn’t want to take up police time or put up a fence, but “at some point, there has to be action taken by somebody.”

Hattenhauer said he felt police got irritated with him when he called.

The Dalles Police Chief Jay Waterbury encouraged him to call when he had trespassers, said Hattenhauer.

He is taking that advice to heart.

He told the Chronicle, “It’s my property and I need to be more diligent to trespass people and make more calls.”

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