Vancouver leaders have announced the spot where they plan to establish the city’s first sanctioned outdoor campsite for people experiencing homelessness, mirroring similar efforts in Portland.
A cul-de-sac in Vancouver’s North Image neighborhood at 1140 NE 51st Circle will stage the new homeless initiative. The city plans to erect 20 eight-by-eight-foot shelters for people who would otherwise be living in tents or a homeless shelter.
City officials expect the site – the first of three planned – to be up-and-running around Dec. 24.
“The goal is to get all these folks in there by Christmas,” said Jamie Spinelli, Vancouver’s homeless resources coordinator.
The site would be among several new sanctioned outdoor homeless communities in the Portland metropolitan area. Portland plans to open three by the end of the year.
Vancouver has been planning two more spots, as well. Spinelli said the city is still looking for its second and third locations.
Vancouver’s announcement of a first campsite triggers an important step for any ambitious homeless initiative: public feedback. Neighbors and nearby business owners to such projects often raise concerns over the potential for crime and litter. City officials expect some pushback.
Hours after the Vancouver’s announcement, a city-run website for residents to comment already included three responses. Two raised concerns over the potential for drug abuse. The third warned of “environmental damage” at the cul-de-sac.
According to Mayor Anne McEnerny-Ogle, the city plans to meet with neighbors in late November and early December. The city has sent fliers to neighbors within 1,200 feet.
McEnerny-Ogle called the site “a great location.” The city owns the property and the road access there allows the city to easily bring in the shelters, handwashing stations, portable toilets and showers, and to remove trash.
About 40 people already live there, and the cul-de-sac is lined with tents and makeshift housing. Spinelli said many residents are couples. The shelters city leaders plan to add can accommodate two people. They’ll allow couples to remain together or for individuals to double up if they choose
Outsiders Inn, a Vancouver nonprofit, will run the day-to-day operations at the campsite. The nonprofit hires and trains formerly homeless individuals for jobs as peer support. Directors Adam Kravitz and Ren Autrey have both lived outside.
According to Spinelli, she and Kravitz are reviewing who will move into the shelters. People must apply, and there will be “some expectations” on those who move in, Spinelli said.
“Everyone’s going to have to keep it clean,” Spinelli said.
Vancouver is buying 20 shelters from Everett-based Pallet Shelter. The homes cost $7,900 each and are eight-foot-by-eight with beds, heat and smoke detectors. McEnerny-Ogle said the city is working with Clark Public Utilities to install electricity.