Aberdeen man wants to clean up closed homeless lot behind city hall

Aberdeen resident Todd Mitchell wants to clean up the homeless camp behind city hall that was closed in November, but still has residents living on-site.

Mitchell isn’t doing it for fame, or to be heralded as a good guy, or good “citizen.” He’s doing it out of the kindness of his heart and the fact that he’s been homeless himself. He also spoke to one of the residents recently and while he was there, the volume of garbage struck him at the former Temporary Alternative Shelter Location at the corner of East 1st Street and North I Street.

“I was just appalled at the garbage that was there, that’s still there and that nothing is being done about it,” he said.

Mitchell knows living outside presents its own challenges and he said one of those shouldn’t be living the way those Aberdeen residents live.

“I drive by the homeless encampment every day and I see the garbage that’s piling up there,” he said about the garbage at the former Temporary Alternative Shelter Location (TASL.)

The camp closed shortly after an Aberdeen City Council 6-5 vote carried on Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2021, The Daily World reported in November. The amendments added a misdemeanor offense for those refusing to remove camps from city property that are not designed for camping.

Mitchell said he believes he has the ability and the rights to remove the garbage at the encampment.

“You can park anywhere,” he said. “You can remove garbage so long as you don’t take somebody’s stuff.”

Mitchell said he plans on being at “Tent City” — which is what the locals call it — with a dump trailer on Saturday, Jan. 22.

“I’ve talked to several of the residents there,” he said. “They said they’d appreciate the help.”

Anybody is welcome to help clean up the garbage and whatever else needs to be removed to make life a little better and more humane. Mitchell said he’d most likely start about 10 a.m., and then work until about 2 p.m.

Mitchell said he didn’t think of the other challenge at the site. People go to the bathroom at the site, but where is there a toilet?

“I was so near-sighted in my vision of picking up garbage that (I didn’t realize) they have nowhere to go to the bathroom,” he said. “They’re doing it right there in the tents.”

Mitchell said while he doesn’t have a lot of money, he has enough to provide funding for a port-o-potty for one month for the camp. He said he first needs city approval.

Mitchell said he’s contacted the city, including city council member Kati Kachman, Ward 3 Position 6, and he doesn’t feel as though he’s being heard.

Kachman didn’t seem to know of Mitchell’s letter until early Monday afternoon, Jan. 17. Kachman said she found his email and that it was sent Friday night, Jan. 14. City Hall closes Friday afternoons. Monday Jan. 17 was Martin Luther King Jr. Day, so local government offices were closed.

Kachman, who said she wanted to read thoroughly Mitchell’s email, supports Mitchell’s desire to be altruistic.

“I think it’s always great that our citizens want to step up and help,” she said. “I think it’s unfortunate that it has to come to that.”

Mitchell said when the homeless residents, who were at the former “River City” encampment, were moved to the lot behind city hall that he believed they thought it would be short term.

“At first it was property that wasn’t being used, it’s a parking lot,” he said. “What they were hoping for is (the homeless) would come downtown. They would find services and they would move along. Just like anybody else that has a job, that’s in a house, that has a roof, that has heat and has the ability to use water and electricity.”

Mitchell said people like him who work, do so to not wind up in the same position as the residents in the tents behind city hall. But some of the people there, for whatever reasons, just are not getting out of that lifestyle.

“These people didn’t want to be here, these people at one point in time were just like us,” he said. “They had jobs, they had some dreams and some vision and some hope.”

Mitchell said he doesn’t think living in garbage and not having a place to go to the bathroom is right.

“I believe (cleaning up) the garbage and a bathroom, if I simplify it, that this can be accomplished and I can help solve it,” he said.