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Emmetsburg Mayor Expresses Concern About Transients

By Staff | Sep 4, 2008

“Emmetsburg was placed in a bad situation last week (week of Aug. 17),” Mayor John Schad told Emmetsburg City Council. The mayor addressed the council at their Aug. 25 meeting.

“The (Iowa Highway) Patrol arrested an Estherville man on a traffic violation and discovered that the man’s truck did not have a valid insurance card. The officer impounded the vehicle.”

Schad told the council that the man spent the night on a bench in one of Emmetsburg’s city parks. The man was unsuccessful in getting to Estherville the next day and eventually walked to the offices of SMARTS (the mayor’s place of business).

“I had already left the building but Jan (Schad) was there,” the mayor said. “He asked for help getting to Estherville. Jan called Eric Hanson (police chief) but was told there were no provisions to help in that type of situation.”

Mayor Schad returned to Emmetsburg and drove the individual to Estherville.

“I am troubled by this situation because there are two possible conditions,” Schad told the council. “Either the individual was an upstanding citizen that found himself in a bad spot because of the vehicle impoundment, or he was a more marginal citizen who had no resources to extricate himself. The latter situation seems to be the case, and that means that we left a man with no money, and no way out, to sleep on a park bench. There does not seem to be any system in effect, any safety net, to catch people who fall into a legal entanglement of this nature.”

Police Chief Eric Hanson told the council that there are safeguards in place. A limited amount of funds are available, through the Salvation Army, to help purchase gas and things of that nature.

“The city has all kinds of things for a lost pet, but we don’t have anything for people,” said Schad.

The police chief added, funds are available for one nights lodging, a meal, or gas, if there are no criminal charges against the person. The first contact would be from the ministerial association and then the police are contacted.

“They (ministers) want transients to come to us,” Hanson stated. “Transients come through on a regular basis, from April to October. On a weekly basis, they need rides and come to us. They’re not looking to stay here any length of time, they’re just getting from point A to point B. Those who seek our help, we’re glad to help them out.”

Schad proposed that the city meet with the Ministerial Association to set up a structure where people who need help, can receive it.

“When we place an indigent individual in a no-win situation, we endanger our citizens unnecessarily,” said Schad. “If the Ministerial Association needs money to help pull this together, I would suggest the city provide the small amount that would be needed to eliminate this problem. Something should be done so it is not repeated.”