The city of Shawnee, Oklahoma, once had a beautiful downtown area. With its historical buildings, countless local businesses, and even a historical museum, this part of the city was truly alive. That is no longer the case. These days, the once beautiful downtown is filled with trash, urine, and even fecal matter. The cause? a never-ending revolving door of homeless individuals.
In recent years, Shawnee has seen an influx of homeless activity. While this in itself isn’t the problem, it has created issues for local businesses. As more homeless people flood into the downtown area, vandalism, trash littering the ground, and even hostile interactions with locals has been on the rise. As a result, many of the city’s residents now avoid this part of town; for business owners, who are in this area, the effects have been devastating.
When looking at a livestream of the downtown area, even during the day, it almost appears to be a ghost town. Graphiti can be seen on historical buildings, parks, and other surrounding areas. the once beautiful park is now completely overrun with the homeless. Citizens often have confrontations with the homeless population. These conflicts derive from mental illness, drugs, or even refusing to give out money.
The park, which is located across from the public Library, is often littered with trash and even buggies. From the video, it is clear that this has become the residence of many of the homeless people. For this reason, you don’t often see people visiting this once beautiful location. While most cities have ordinances mandating that the parks be closed after a certain time, this doesn’t appear to apply to anybody wanting to sleep in it. Meanwhile, the police do nothing unless locals call in.
I continued to watch the stream and observed officers drive past people, regardless of the fact that they were sleeping on sidewalks. While you would presume there would be a city ordinance for this, apparently that is not the case. In this dynamic, the local community is paying the price.
Many of the stores remain open, though business is continuing to decline. Because of this reason, not only are business owners struggling, but this also effects their employees. While business owners have voiced concerns about the problem, there does not appear to have been any action from the city council. As a result, the situation for local businesses, as well as pedestrians, has gradually become dangerous.
This situation has no “easy fix.” However, doing nothing has already shown negative results. With the increase of the homeless community, there has been a decrease in locals who visit the downtown area. Confrontations, littering, drugs, and various other issues are already proving this point. Overall, the city needs to address the concerns of its citizens, it needs to find a better solution for the homeless population, and it needs to be more proactive in ensuring the safety for everybody.