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Editorial: N.Va.'s homeless have rights, but they are not unlimited

Public facilities need to be used for the purposes intended, not as crash pads

As part of their June 15 response to a public-comment speaker complaining about those in the predicament of homelessness using county libraries as their daytime crash pads, Arlington County Board members meandered for a while into the philosophical underpinnings of the use of public facilities.

One board member, Maureen Coffey, spoke thusly: “People deserve to have safe, warm or air-conditioned places to go during the day. Public spaces are for all of us.”

(One presumes that if a retinue of homeless Arlingtonians opted to set up camp in the public spaces on the third floor of the HQ at 2100 Clarendon Blvd. where the County Board and county manager have their offices, there might be a slightly different reaction. But we digress . . . )

In her comments, Coffey was right. And she also was wrong.

Arlington libraries for a generation have played a hide-and-seek game with what we’re now calling the “unhoused.” Two decades ago, long before Ms. Coffey’s time, the restrooms at Central Library had evolved into no-go zones for most patrons, having been effectively overrun.

The public made its discontent known, county officials took action and things calmed down. Problems still occasionally flare up, but not (yet) to the extent they once did.

We’ve got no problem with anyone using public facilities, provided they are (wait for an interjection of sanity) actually USING the facilities and not making use of them for purposes for which they are not intended, from sleeping to bathing to anything else.

You have to draw the line somewhere, and that paragraph above seems the logical point. That shouldn’t be so hard to understand.