Homelessness on the rise in Yukon, city officials say

In encampments in wooded areas, in tents tucked out of sight or on the city streets after dark in various places around Yukon, more homeless people have been seen recently, at least two city officials report.
Joe Horn, a Yukon resident who serves as the city’s board of adjustment chairman, said he has observed a rise in the city’s homeless population. He said homeless people are living in various places. He spoke during a recent city council study session.
“We have a homeless problem here in Yukon,” he said at the study session. “I think the council needs to address that.”
Horn said he does not think Yukon is prepared for an influx or increase in the homeless population because the city does not have public transportation, shelter or services, and cold weather is a concern for those living outdoors.
There is not a current survey or count of the number of homeless people in Yukon, he said.
Yukon police indicated in a statement that the department did not seem to be having more encounters with homeless people.
“It’s difficult to compile statistics which would give a number showing how many encounters our officers have had with homeless people,” the statement read. “It does not seem as though the number of recent encounters our officers have had with homeless people is on the rise. This is in comparison to previous years. The encounters our officers are having with homeless are mostly repeat encounters with a select few that are homeless and are living in the City of Yukon.
The city’s location, the statement added, makes it prone to be a site for homeless travelers passing through.
“With a major interstate running through Yukon city limits, we occasionally deal with homeless people traveling through,” it said. “While homelessness is not a crime, our officers handle each individual situation as they are presented. In many situations, homeless people have permission to be where they are, from the land or property owners. Unless the owner of a property asks us to criminally trespass them, we cannot force a homeless person from the area.”
While being homeless is not a crime, there has not been any recent increase is trespassing, panhandling or other related complaints in Yukon, police said.
Horn said he thinks addiction and mental illness issues are combined with homelessness problems for many transients.
City Councilwoman Shelli Selby said she has helped feed the homeless through a program at West Metro Community Church, 601 W. Main St., called “Feed The Sheep.”
Selby said she fed a homeless person recently who appeared “high.”
“I have a passion for homelessness and for those who suffer from mental health,” Selby said.
Mayor Michael McEachern said he would be interested in studying the issue in Yukon.
City manager Jim Crosby said the issue could be addressed by the council within the next few months.

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