OC Resident Suggests Homeless Task Force

OC Resident Suggests Homeless Task Force
Photos from this past summer by Allen Sklar

OCEAN CITY — It’s no secret there is a homeless issue in Ocean City that appears to be growing more acute than ever recently, but figuring out how best to handle it continues to create challenges.

With increasing frequency, homeless individuals have been taking up residence on the benches, parks and bus stops around the downtown area, and while some attract little notice, others are creating problems and generating complaints from residents and visitors, particularly around the Boardwalk.

From public drinking and drug use to arrests for fighting and other unsavory behavior, the growing homeless population continues to create challenges for a resort striving to protect its family image. It’s certainly not a problem unique to Ocean City, but it’s a new issue in recent years for local leaders.

Heretofore, the town has responded with proactive law enforcement and a kind of holistic approach aimed at getting the homeless the resources they need. With another summer season in the books and the homeless issue showing no signs of going away, more needs to be done, according to downtown resident Scott Chismar, who broached the topic during last week’s Mayor and Council meeting.

39813726_10213324318278844_9135222802381537280_o-150x150.jpg“I want to bring up a touchy subject and that’s the homeless issue,” he said. “A lot of things went right this summer, but that’s one area where we are failing miserably. We’ve made some progress and have reclaimed the pier and Sunset Park and I thank you for that. On the other hand, the situation at the Caroline Street comfort station is out of control.”

Chismar said it’s no secret several homeless individuals have taken up residence in the downtown bus stations and depots at certain times of the year. Chismar said the town has exerted a lot of time and effort on other issues with task forces including street performers and motorized special events, for example, and suggested a similar effort be dedicated to the growing homeless issue.

“In the area of Somerset Street and Baltimore Avenue where folks get on and off the bus, they couldn’t utilize the benches all summer because of all of their belongings there,” he said. “You guys are bright people committed to making Ocean City a better place. I believe if we get together we can figure out a way to do that.”

Resort officials are clearly not ignoring the problem. Over the last few years, increased enforcement and efforts to find the homeless the resources they need have grown, but there are sensitive legal issues to tip-toe around as well. Chismar said he understood the legalities, but said a more concerted effort could alleviate some of the problems.

“It’s been said these folks have rights, too, and I would never suggest that they didn’t,” he said. “But you built all of these nice amenities such as the parks and the piers so residents and visitors can utilize them and not feel like they have to stay away from them because they have been taken over by purposes that were never intended.”

About The Author: Shawn Soper

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Shawn Soper has been with The Dispatch since 2000. He began as a staff writer covering various local government beats and general stories. His current positions include managing editor and sports editor. Growing up in Baltimore before moving to Ocean City full time three decades ago, Soper graduated from Loch Raven High School in 1981 and from Towson University in 1985 with degrees in mass communications with a journalism concentration and history.