I am writing to suggest some practical steps that Brattleboro could take to address the current issues of panhandling and homelessness.
1. Low-income housing should be spread evenly by population county-wide. Surrounding towns — for example, Wilmington, Townshend, Putney and Dummerston— should all have adequate housing that is available to their own residents. By building a large majority of housing in Brattleboro, we act as a magnet for this very significant issue.
2. In Rutland, the single parking meter attendant is a uniformed police officer. We could replicate this approach. This would create a police presence on the streets, hopefully in an ambassadorial fashion, which could also be a very effective deterrent to street crime.
3. Based on my experience, a number of the homeless have come to Brattleboro for substance-abuse treatment, from the methadone program and the Brattleboro Retreat. I believe it is appropriate for both these programs to contribute to the town budget, perhaps on a per-patient-capita basis, to help support community-based social services for their patients.
4. Given the general belief that addiction is a medical problem and that a significant number of narcotic addicts begin their addiction with prescription medications, perhaps we should move the methadone and suboxone program to the grounds of Brattleboro Memorial Hospital.
Doing so would help legitimize addiction as a medical concern and allow patients to have access to BMH, in order to enhance their overall medical care. This would also legitimatize narcotic users as part of the health-care system.
5. Instead of relying on businesses and privately owned security cameras, the town needs to provide and maintain such equipment.