With most of the businesses closed and those that are open only serving customers on a limited basis, you would think things would be quiet in downtown Roseburg.

But lately, the opposite has been true, and several business owners say it is due to the growing number of homeless people hanging out downtown and living in camps nearby. At least one business owner has also blamed the Roseburg Dream Center, which hands out food to the homeless from the basement of a church on Southeast Lane Avenue.

“There’s freaking mayhem. It’s like a war zone happening downtown,” Roseburg City Councilor Ashley Hicks said recently. “All up and down Jackson Street, like it’s a freaking war zone.”

Tensions reached a head a couple of weeks ago when someone threw a metal grate through the window of The Hub Barbershop, at 746 SE Jackson St., causing an estimated $1,300 in damage. While police were investigating that crime they also found two large planters in the 600 block of Southeast Main Street that had been pushed over, with one broken, as well as several trash cans pushed over.

Brock William Blumenthal, 31, who has no listed address, was charged with criminal mischief. Blumenthal admitted to breaking the window and planter and had already broken several other windows downtown in April, causing several thousand dollars in damage, according to police reports.

In an email sent to city officials on April 27 entitled “Downtown needs your help,” Hicks relayed an email that was sent to her by Joe Bardaville, owner of Cup of Joe coffee shop, which is next door to The Hub Barbershop.

“I am not generally one who points fingers on social media, but a solution needs to be found for the population of transients, the mentally ill, the crack heads and criminals that congregate downtown at Jackson and Lane,” according to the email by Bardaville.

“The Dream Center feeds and clothes the needy on a daily basis, which brings this displaced population en masse to their location at 813 SE Lane St. in Downtown Roseburg, where they loiter at Eagles Park for days and weeks on end. I appreciate the altruism of this organization. However, in the five or so years since the Dream Center moved to this location from the Southgate Shopping Center we have witnessed the overall demise of Downtown Roseburg.

“Every business in Downtown has been affected by the burgeoning homeless population, as well as every person who lives or works or visits Downtown Roseburg. This is not a unique situation, it is happening everywhere. However, our City Planners are failing the residents and business owners by allowing the Dream Center to increase this population into Downtown Roseburg every single day …

“Your complacency in this issue has resulted in a rapidly escalating crime rate, loss of revenue, and business closures. You are responsible, and we deserve better. City of Roseburg, do your job, or expect and accept the consequences.”

Tim Edmondson, director of the Roseburg Dream Center, said he understands why business owners might be frustrated, but directing that frustration at his agency is misplaced.

“The homeless were in the downtown area long before the Dream Center. The Dream Center is helping these human beings with basic needs, like food and clothing,” Edmondson said. “This man is seeing this problem through a very narrow lens. I agree the city has failed, but they are not to blame and neither is the Dream Center.”

‘We’re incredibly frustrated’

At around the same time that the vandalism occurred, someone began marking up window storefronts with graffiti.

Greater Douglas United Way Executive Director Bryan Trenkle, whose agency is located at 702 SE Jackson St., sent a letter to city officials on April 27 to complain about the graffiti. In the email, Trenkle said nine businesses in the 700 block of Southeast Jackson Street had been vandalized with graffiti in the last couple of weeks. Trenkle attached photos of the graffiti with his email and blamed it on one person.

Roseburg police are investigating the graffiti, and have cited one person who they believe may be responsible.

There were also complaints of clothes, blankets and other items strung out at Eagles Park, which is across the street from the Dream Center. At one point police — prompted by a phone call from Roseburg Mayor Larry Rich — went to the park and got the people there to clean up “the mess,” Rich said.

And this week, six windows and the glass front door were broken and graffiti threatening President Donald Trump was written on an exterior wall of the Republican headquarters, at 506 SE Jackson St. Local and federal officials are investigating that incident, which caused an estimated $5,000 in damage.

One issue that is hampering law enforcement’s ability to tamp down problems downtown stems from a shortage of capacity at the jail due to social distancing requirements related to COVID-19. The capacity at the jail is significantly lower now and police acknowledge that because of that they are arresting fewer people and citing and releasing many more. For example, Roseburg police said they arrested 155 people last month, compared to 256 in April 2019.

“We’re incredibly frustrated and hamstrung by what we’re unable to do,” Roseburg Police Chief Gary Klopfenstein said at a recent city council meeting. “It’s a struggle to try to find justice for people and it’s frustrating.”

‘Doing a darn good job’

Police have also been following guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which warns against breaking up homeless camps because doing so might increase the spread of COVID-19 in the general population.

As a result of that, “the amount of homeless camps has exploded,” Hicks said at the April 27 city council meeting.

Hicks brushed aside comments from Klopfenstein and City Manager Nikki Messenger, who said everyone was doing the best they could under the circumstances.

“I hear the excuses but I’m not really buying it,” Hicks said. “I’m not going to discredit anybody but I’m just calling BS on a bunch of it. I see it with my own eyes on a daily basis. The number of homeless camps has exploded. It is a free-for-all, literally.”

Mayor Larry Rich cut Hicks off and defended Klopfenstein during the meeting, explaining that he was following guidelines handed down by the state.

“Ashley, I’m going to interrupt and let you know that the chief is doing a darn good job, and he is following the rules,” Rich said. “He has to follow what the state says, we don’t go by what you say. It goes by what the governor puts in orders, and we will follow those rules.”

More recently, Hicks has sent photos and videos to city officials and the media showing trash at Eagles Park, suitcases and other belongings and bike repairs taking place under one downtown bridge and a fire burning under another.

“I am disgusted with the way our city manager mismanages public assets. I’m upset with the mayor for His lack of leadership and representation to all citizens,” Hicks wrote in one email. “Does this look like a livable city to you? Does this look like a downtown you’d like to spend your dollars or your time?”

In response to those criticisms, Rich said Hicks “struggles to communicate with people in a positive manner. I was hoping she would be able to learn, but I just don’t see any progress in that area.”

“She is well aware of the hard work that our police officers and parks department staff do in cleaning up the trash at Eagle’s Park,” Rich continued. “She chooses to ignore that fact because it is easier to complain than to be part of the solution.”

The city council is scheduled to meet on Monday, where the issue of what is happening downtown is likely to come up for discussion.

Scott Carroll can be reached at scarroll@nrtoday.com or 541-957-4204. Or follow him on Twitter @scottcarroll15.

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(21) comments

AC7880

The Governor is allowing criminal elements to violate corona virus guidelines across the state. Look at the rioters in Portland and the protestors across the state!

Meanwhile she keeps law abiding citizens n a lockdown, forces businesses to remain closed, and orders police and jails to release criminals!! Yet she does not crack down on the lawless at all!

We won't be visiting downtown again until the city cleans it up. As kids we visited and shopped downtown regularly when it had a variety of businesses and a family atmosphere. Homeless were few and far between. Now they are everywhere. We wouldn't go in the park now, it's turned into a homeless hangout. If you think of going into the churches forget that too, there is homeless people hanging out blocking the steps. The churches themselves attract more by handing stuff out, which is the right thing to do, but it also causes some people to avoid the churches due to people blocking the entryways etc. The homeless clearly hang around for free handouts. Dream Center is a great idea but the location is a magnet to bringing the homeless to downtown. If they would relocate to somewhere else in town that would help a lot. Maybe the city could offer them some help with relocating. The other problem is the mentally ill and the jail releasing inmates, also downtown. Those two factors are most of the problem. The third is there are no family variety stores, nothing we want to buy downtown anymore. Possibly hire the homeless, paid daily, to clean it up like other cities do, where both the homeless and the city benefit. Limiting the church handouts to once or twice a week would help a lot too.

Stacey

I remember when I was a kid, my sister and I would walk Jackson Street every day during the summer, visiting the shops, now, we won't go up there unless we absolutely have to and her house is with us because of the weirdos hanging around.

Kar3n

Obviously they're not going to get rid of the center, and homelessness is a complicated issue which is not easily resolved, but, at the very least, there should be an increased police presence down there, 24hrs a day, strictly enforcing laws. They're acting like this because, 9 times out of 10, they get away with it.

Angelfish

As a woman and a member of Downtown Fitness and Aerobic Center, i have been harassed by vagrants while coming and going from my car in the back parking lot. I also looked into buying the coffee shop from Ms. Hicks when she had it up for sale. But with the homeless population in Eagle Park THEN, much less now, I didn't pursue the deal. No one wants to be cleaning up human feces from their front stoop every morning. Im glad Mr. Bardaville bought the coffee shop as I frequented there often before the world-wide lockdown. It's a great business, but one that will inevitably close up if the city continues to let the homeless have free reign of Roseburg's downtown. I have never met Ms. Hicks, but it sounds like she is the only person who wants the homeless ejected from the streets of Roseburg, and this includes the police chief and the mayor. What have we become? The City of Eugene? Because they allow their their homeless to shoot up in parks, and leave the dirty needles where any child could get stabbed by one. The City needs to get off their Politically Correct Moral high horses and CLEAN UP THE STREETS. You and the downtown streets of Roseburg are disgusting.

SaraG

It's just another excuse for Ms. Hicks to push her hatred. The vandalism at the Republican HQ is likely just poorly expressed anger about our current state of the union. As far as the other damages, I find it interesting that the coffee shop is the one Ashley used to own. As for the stuff she claims to see it have photos of, she's come up with that line before. I really don't see why she's even still in her position. She's just using it as a soapbox for her socioeconomic division tactics. I guess dumping people's belongings or scattering them as a scare tactic isn't working as well anymore. She's been caught too many times.

Jlbconstruction

If I urinate/defecate in public

Trespass

Loiter

Litter

Vandalize

I will be fined/arrested unless I'm vagrant....why the preferential treatment? If I pay taxes I must follow the rules/laws if I don't I have a free for all. I don't at all wonder why that way of life has blossomed immensely recently. No rules or repercussions for a rule free lifestyle that someone else pays for...hhmmm..

Neutralcomment

Protest

vote

go for a jog

carry a gun into a capital building threatening a governer...

I'll be arrested or shot unless I'm a white guy. See it works for you too. Start thinking of these people as people and stop thinking about what you aren't allowed to do.

You know...glass houses and stones and stuff

gearheadgeek1969

There has always been a small "transient" population in the USA. They were seldom seen and heard. About 40 years ago politicians enabled alcoholics and drug-addicted persons to shed responsibility for their actions by labeling alcoholism and drug addiction as diseases. In each case, it is a willful act that can lead to bad consequences. These transients "out of control actions" hurt all of us including themselves. The mentally ill need to be confined and treated. I would say the same about the addicts and alcoholics that live in the street. They are not getting any real help with their affliction, and they are making our towns miserable to live in. A truly compassionate society would treat these people instead of giving them a pat on the head and a blanket. Please do not confuse these street people with "Homeless" people. Homeless people have different issues not tied to drug addiction and alcoholism. Some make poor choices due to minimal education, some are just plain unlucky and some are victims of abusive relationships. With a bit of help, luck, and guidance, they can get off the street and get their lives back together.

Janice

Ashley... shut up and go crawl back under your rock. All you do is cause problems and complain. You do nothing to fix anything unless it brings you personal praise. You're a horrible evil person. I know what you are and what you've done.

Takeourcityback71

Was Ashlee on here?

Takeourcityback71

One more thing, myself and others I know in the community have seen them publicly defecating in plain sight. Both from driving along the freeway and in the downtown area.

Takeourcityback71

I agree with everyone on their upset about the homeless crisis here in our beautiful town and county. I’m so disgusted with the homeless traffic and their messes. The majority of them are not even from here. Not only do they vandalize, but they defecate, litter, sell/use their drugs, whenever and wherever they choose. They take from charities, government agencies, taxpayers, and business owners daily. And their camps! They are out of control as well. I helped a group clean up a camp out in Winchester. Don’t even get me started with what I witnessed. The squatter who made his dump of a camp there stated he and his woman ‘squatted down’ 5 years ago and although they have no problem ‘taking’ from local charities, they also trash talked the charities. He said they came from Arizona. That he and the woman are no longer squatting together and she is staying in a nearby trailer park with her adult children. He was squatting on private property and the individual who organized the clean-up had contacted the owners who were an elderly couple from out of town. They had no idea of the activity and immediately authorized an eviction. Not to mention the neighboring camp just south of that camp on Keller Lumber property. The DCO found several stolen bicycles and bicycle parts in that camp along with other stolen items. They were running a chop shop out of that one. Keller Lumber owners bulldozed it down. These very ‘Illegal’ camps are also huge fire hazards as we well know. They are squatted up and down all of our creek beds, hills, and mountains. A certain not for profit legal agency in town is helping them along with fighting for their rights to squat on private and public properties in Roseburg and around the county. And I too am not a fan of the Dreamcenter and it’s so-called mission either. They’re enabling them along with the other public and not-so public groups who are feeding this growing pandemic. You give them an inch and they take more than a mile. There are indeed those who are definitely in need. And those folks are usually too humble to ask and when they are served, they are extremely grateful and genuine. You won’t see the likes of them turn on you. Here’s one example of mismanaged city property for profit: The next time you are driving on Southeast Stephens in the parking lot across from the old greyhound station. There’s a porta-potty right in the center of the cities paid parking lot. It’s a great congregation meeting place for many. Sometimes they’ll just squat on down on our dime for weeks at a time. There’s a dark green car that’s been parked there for about a month now with Utah license plates with someone clearly living out of it. This is just one example of the cities mismanagement of funds that we are paying for! There’s been several incidents where people that I know that work nearby have been harassed and solicited drugs. They have also ran shopping carts into their cars. I’ve seen the Park Smart security patrol there if you want to call it that. The drive their wanna be cop looking car through there one time and take off ignoring all of the activity and filth that is ever present and obvious. City officials and county commissioners need to rise up and get real. We’re all sick of the ‘Mayhem’ and overpopulation of these disrespectful, ungrateful sick zombies.

Edgar

“There’s freaking mayhem. It’s like a war zone happening downtown,” Roseburg City Councilor Ashley Hicks said recently. “All up and down Jackson Street, like it’s a freaking war zone.”

While I can appreciate the desire to better the situation downtown, hyperbole and sensationalism only serves to negate one's plea for support. I've been to war. I wish it had been as pleasant as Jackson Street in Roseburg.

Judging by her apparent frustration with the way things are run at the mayor's office, I assume that we can expect to see Ashley Hicks on the ballot for the position of mayor in the next election. I'm looking forward to seeing how she will solve the myriad problems of the city that she has, but apparently is unwilling to implement from her position of city counselor.

sectorstar

She seriously thinks that she'll single handedly fix all the world's problems in douglas county (or thinks that she has), but has done next to nothing to show for it. Quite the ego she has. About a month ago she had the news review publish one of her articles (rants) about what we shoulda been doing a couple months ago to where the corona virus wouldn't had got as bad as it did.....yet comically enough during those months, you didn't see her showing much care or concern about it.

mynamehere

When you have a city like Roseburg, which has an "unofficial homeless mentally ill mascot" living on a bench in front of city hall and the courthouse...there is a big problem. Roseburg will only return to normal when normal doesn't include people sleeping in doorways, people using the public streets and sidewalks as public toilets.

javelina1

Okay. Guidelines are just that, guidelines. They are not written in stone or rigid. Strict adherence to even some laws allows for no outside the box thinking on how to resolve issues. You end up leaving all the decision making up to one person. All leaders affected in this community have an obligation to resolve this or they are not leaders. They are supervisors and can easily be replaced.

David Sayers

While I can appreciate the altruism and good intentions behind the “Dream Center”, unfortunately like so many similar projects under taken by well meaning individuals they fail to take into account all the ramifications and downsides. I drive up lane St. two to three times a day at minimum at can’t help but see the increased occupation of the park by those who have the appearance of being without means. I have observed more than once someone who has taken over the steps of the church with all their belongings. Another person has set up “residence” under the power unit on the fence line at the park.

If this is allowed to continue unabated it will only get worse. I fully understand the quandary the police officers are in who are tasked with maintaining law and order on the one hand and having to comply with the conditions set forth by a Governor 170 statuette miles away and much further away metaphorically speaking.

Law enforcement personal put their lives at risk any time they must confront these individuals ( as do Roseburg citizens) many of whom are on drugs and whose behavior is erratic sometimes at best.

The park was built by taxpayer dollars for the enjoyment of our rightful citizens not people who have no interest in maintaining it.

It is time to take back our park and our city and re-establish control over our lives and well being.

Allowing this to go on is helping no one including those whom the “Dream Center” purports to helping.

The Biblical saying “Give a Man a Fish, and You Feed Him for a Day. Teach a Man To Fish, and You Feed Him for a Lifetime” is very true here.

This Corona Virus has given rise to a lot of misplaced, un informed meritless speculation some of it outright dangerous (letting felons go free). We need to govern our lives by facts rather then fear and get back on track soon.

Rise722

Why go where there is a potentially dangerous situation? Roseburg needs to move all of this out of the downtown area.

racerlady

why feed and clothe someone who will turn on you? Why give them free run of our downtown that they obviously don't respect property rights? Business owners will move away from downtown if this criminal behavior is not dealt with. GET IT RESOLVED NOW before it escalates and someone gets HURT..

mynamehere

The Roseburg Dream Center is no dream but a nightmare for downtown.

My family no longer goes downtown for any reason.

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