Amy Dalrymple, Forum News Service, Published April 26 2012
Williston community center used and abused by homeless oil workers
Larry Grondahl, president of the Williston Park Board, said the Raymond Family Community Center has seen an increase in the number of people who use the facility to shower because they live in campers or sleep in their cars.
That has caused problems with people trashing the bathrooms and leaving beard trimmings and hair all over, Grondahl said.
“There are some people who are coming here who don’t give a darn about Williston,” Grondahl said. “It just became time where we needed to take it back for our community instead of turning it into a homeless shelter.”
Transients also loiter in the center for long periods using the wireless Internet and make members with families uncomfortable, he said.
The concerns mounted this week when human waste was found near the door and in the hallway after someone apparently defecated there or close by, Grondahl said. The facility’s restrooms are open to the public.
Human waste also has been found in the showers in the past, he said.
Now the center is limiting the hours people can shower and only selling yearly memberships, rather than the monthly memberships that were causing the problems.
The picnic tables and TV have been removed from the room where people loitered and a password is now required to access the Internet. Staff also are getting estimates for security cameras for the facility.
Grondahl said he feels bad for the 95 percent of people who are good people, but the other 5 percent is ruining it for everyone.
Jessica Ames, a Williston mother of four, said she didn’t like taking her kids to dance classes anymore because men would make comments as they walked by, and she didn’t feel comfortable letting her children use the bathroom.
Ames also plays volleyball at the community center and stopped bringing her children along to watch her play.
She’s happy the center is implementing the changes.
“It’s nice now,” Ames said Thursday.
Eddie Williams, who moved to Williston from Michigan, is living in his car while he looks for work. Williams said he occasionally showers at the Raymond Center with a monthly membership that will no longer be available. But he said he understands why the new rules were implemented.
“It’s not fair to some of us, but we’re newcomers,” Williams said.
Mayor Ward Koeser the incident at the center is similar to the issue that’s causing city leaders to consider making it illegal to live in a camper parked outside of a campground. Some of the concerns he hears from residents are people who dispose of waste improperly or step outside the camper to urinate.
“You have a limited number of people who are behaving badly,” Koeser said.
Grondahl said the majority of men who used the showers were good stewards, and some even grabbed mops and brooms to help clean.
“It’s not everybody,” Grondahl said. “It’s too bad that a few people have to ruin it for everybody.”
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Dalrymple is a Forum Communications Co. reporter stationed in the Oil Patch.
She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
or (701) 580-6890.