So where’s this four inches of snow that was supposed to have fallen overnight? It seems like it’s a pretty regular phenomenon here: Gray clouds approach, the temperature is close to freezing, people predict a snowfall that’ll lock down the entire region and I wake up the next morning to find that, as usual, it didn’t snow.
Nevertheless, I’m polishing a few stories I’m working on. I’ll post early editions of them later. The first is a story of theft of copper wire from roadways. The second, about former Nuremberg Trials physician Buel Sever, will run in Sunday’s B1
The number of homeless is rising across Pierce County, but the City of Tacoma’s housing program seems to be a success. Still, several residents at a joint session of city and county public safety and human services committee weren’t happy with the overall situation.
Richard Anderson-Connolly, a professor at the University of Puget Sound, provided to the councils what he called a "progress report" based on polling of those who entered the city’s program to move homeless persons off the streets and into houses.
He provided statistics which show that, so far, the program is a success. Visits to the emergency room are down, and visits to other healthcare facilities are up. Those moved into housing self-report less victimization. Surveys showed that, on average, those involved report they feel safer, happier, more hopeful, less depressed, less lonely, less angry and less tired.
"Every change, you could say, moves in a beneficial direction,” Anderson-Connolly said.
The county, which pledged last year to cut homelessness in half over the next decade, reported a 14 percent increase in its 2006 count, though it hopes the count will be down in this year’s count. The biggest challenge it faces, a county representative said, is recruiting agencies to help. He said the county has the capacity for two or three more agencies.
Pierce County also reported that 65 percent of those placed in housing programs are leaving before one year.
"Often we don’t know where they’ve gone," he said. "Are they homeless again? We can’t tell."
Anderson-Connolly likened the homeless balance between the city and the unincorporated parts of the county to a balloon – squeeze it, and the volume doesn’t change; it just moves. He said that can actually be problematic because a lower density of the homeless and can make it more difficult to help.
I’m at a special joint meeting of Tacoma and Pierce County public safety and human services committees. There are two topics on the agenda: an update on homeless encampments and the county’s incarcerated veterans reintegration program.
Think the theft of copper wire is rare? Check out this document from the Washington State Department of Transportation.
The majority of theft occurs inside Pierce County. There have been 46 thefts in the area since December 2006, and replacement costs are estimated at $101,920. The costliest single theft was on Highway 167 in Sumner last Dec. 20. Supply and labor to replace that wire, which lit the roadway, was estimated at $12,000.
I talked to Trooper Brandy Kessler, a public information officer with the Washington State Patrol, about the theft of copper wire from along roadways. She said most of the thefts are the result of methamphetamine addicts looking to score more drugs.
"It’s the methheads who need their fix," she said. "They steal copper wire and other equipment and sell it to get money to buy meth."
She urged anyone who sees something suspicious to call it in.
"If they see somebody at a lightpost and they’re not in a marked car, it’s probably someone stealing equipment," she
Areli Villegas Alvarez pulled her pink coat tightly around herself. She was showing her first-grade classmates at Sheridan Elementary School its golden buttons and zippers, its fur-lined hood and its pink, giraffe-print interior. As she slid the zipper pull back and forth, she began to squirm with excitement.
"It’s so pretty," she said Thursday. "Just so pretty."
Saxson Steltz, right, was equally enamored with the zipper pockets on his new jacket. Saxson, also a first-grader, chose a camouflage coat because he said it reminded him of Army jackets he sometimes sees
I just got off the phone with Kelly Stowe, a spokeswoman for the Washington State Department of Transportation. I’m cooking up a story about the increasing trend in copper-wire theft.
She said the department is working with the Washington State Patrol to combat the problem and has set up a Web site and toll-free tip line to encourage drivers to call in suspected theft. In May, Gov. Chris Gregoire signed a bill increasing penalties for stolen metal. The DOT also has increased surveillance of storage areas that contain metals.