Word on the Street

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Category: Portland and 72nd


Investigation launched into pilfered bottles

The Department of Health and Human Services has launched an investigation into the October discovery of prescription bottles originating from the Kmart at 1414 72nd Street East in Midland.

Community activist Stacy Emerson, who discovered the bottles near a homeless camp behind the store, forwarded The News Tribune an e-mail from an equal-opportunity specialist with the Office for Civil Rights, which oversees the medical-privacy law known as HIPPA. The department reviewed and approved the investigation, the e-mail states.

No timeline for completion was provided, but the specialist did say the department

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Still a problem area?

Apparently the problem of the homeless camps at East 72nd Street and Portland Avenue hasn’t completely gone away. A church had cleaned up part of the camps, but community activist Stacy Emerson said they still appear active.

I’ve got an e-mail into the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department for reaction.

Part of the letter from Emerson is after the jump:

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Mini-storage planned for site

I just talked to Carl Halsan, a project manager with Halsan Fry who is developing a piece of the property at East 72nd Street and Portland Avenue (as part of a separate entity, 2010 Investments LLC).

They’re building a mini-storage site accessible by Portland Avenue. He said he was unaware of any homeless encampments on the property.

"It was my impression they were on the other properties," he said. "I was just out there a few days ago with a surveying crew and we didn’t see anyone."


Kmart says it’s launched an investigation

Among the litter at the homeless encampment at East 72nd Street and Portland Avenue were dozens of prescription-medicine bottles from the Kmart pharmacy. I just talked to Dennis Stewart, the general manager of the store.

“Quite frankly, we take all our precautions seriously and according to the law,” he said. “We’re aware of what happened, and there is an investigation into it.”

He said he can’t disclose the scope of the investigation or a timeframe of its completion. He did say the store has been in contact with the police, but he didn’t have much else to say.


‘The ball’s already rolling on it’

I just got off the phone with Ed Troyer, a spokesman for the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department. He said the department is aware of the problem and plans are already in motion to clean up the homeless encampment at East 72nd Street and Portland Avenue.

He said a team involving representatives of the sheriff’s department, the county executive, the health department and the public works department are planning to clean it up:

"We’re in the process of putting a multi-agency team together to get that taken care of. We’re already in the process of cleaning it up. …

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The third property owner’s view

Clarence O’Neill, owns property behind Kmart and East 72nd Street and Portland Avenue. He doesn’t want the homeless encampment there and is looking to sell the property.

He and a sheriff’s deputy went on the property several months ago, he says:

A Pierce County Sheriff’s deputy came out with me and looked over that property and the property adjacent to it. I didn’t hear back from them, but I assume they were going back that night with a police dog to chase them out, but I don’t know what the result of that was.


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The views of business owners

I talked to a few business owners at East 72nd Street and Portland Avenue about homelessness. Here’s what they had to say:

Joe Blevins, a manager at Big Lots, said the problem isn’t out of control.

The only real problem is panhandling. Sometimes they’ll go through the garbage, but it’s mostly panhandling.

And Debbie Hinson, co-owner of Baskin Robbins, said other crimes are bigger problems.

We’ve had more crime problems than anything else, and problems with response time. We’ve had a homeless guy sleeping behind the store. But overall, there are more problems in this area

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