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News / Clark County News

Proposed location for Vancouver’s fourth Safe Stay draws mixed reviews

VPS releases statement, looks forward to learning more about potential site

By Mia Ryder-Marks, Columbian staff reporter
Published: May 26, 2023, 6:05am

Property in the Lincoln neighborhood is being eyed for a potential home for the city of Vancouver’s fourth Safe Stay, which is resulting in mixed reviews from the community.

Similar to the other three Safe Stay communities, the location at 4611 Main St. will include 20 modular pallet shelters that will provide a temporary housing solution for up to 40 people. The suggested site would have fencing and 24/7 security serviced by Portland nonprofit Do Good Multnomah, which will also oversee the fourth Safe Stay.

The lot is located just north of Kiggins Bowl and nearby Discovery Middle School and Vancouver Public Schools’ primary athletic facility. The school district provided this statement:

“The city of Vancouver has proactively shared ideas and plans about increased housing opportunities for families in our community. We’re grateful for community and local government partners in this effort because we have a significant number of unhoused students in our district. We understand that the city of Vancouver will host neighborhood/community feedback opportunities where we can learn more about the plans and receive additional input from the community.”

Jamie Spinelli, homelessness response coordinator for the city of Vancouver, said the city spoke with the school district ahead of time.

“And (we) will continue to do so throughout the community engagement process and beyond,” she said.

If approved, the fourth Safe Stay would occupy a sliver of the 18,750-square-foot lot that is owned by the Washington State Department of Transportation, which would lease it to the city.

Encampments are often set up on the transportation agency’s properties, especially on the right of way. Tamara Greenwell, communications manager for WSDOT, said the agency found that partnering with local jurisdictions, such as the city of Vancouver, is the best way to address the growing homelessness issue seen on the lots.

“We certainly have a stake in this work because people take up shelter on our right-of-way properties, and this is our way to contribute. As a transportation agency, we’re limited in how we can support those living unsheltered on our right-of-way, and this is a great way for us to contribute,” Greenwell said.

According to a statement from the city of Vancouver, extensive outreach is being conducted to all residents and business owners within a 1,200-foot radius of the proposed site. Community members are also welcome to share feedback regarding the property.

The proposed site would have a 1,000-foot no-camping ban starting at the perimeter of the property.

Spinelli said, if approved, the Homeless Assistance Response Team, or HART, would let the people camping nearby know what is happening and give them an opportunity to relocate on their own as early as possible.

“We also let all the area outreach teams know, in case anyone they’re working with is in that area. Then, when we have a timeline for when work on the site would start, we’d provide official notice to anyone within that area that they’d need to relocate. … That’s also typically the time that we connect them with the site operator, if they’re interested in coming into the site, so they can begin the process of determining eligibility, background checks, etc.,” Spinelli said.

The city usually provides at least a week’s notice, if not more, depending on the number of people living outside in the area and the size of specific encampments.

“We’d then follow up with, move out and/or enforcement if people haven’t relocated by the deadline previously given,” Spinelli said.

Individuals living around the site and in the no-camping zone are prioritized to be residents of the Safe Stay, as long as they meet the screening criteria — for example, people with sex offenses are screened out.

To learn more about Vancouver’s homelessness response and register for email updates, visit www.beheardvancouver.org/homelessness-response.

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This story was made possible by Community Funded Journalism, a project from The Columbian and the Local Media Foundation. Top donors include the Ed and Dollie Lynch Fund, Patricia, David and Jacob Nierenberg, Connie and Lee Kearney, Steve and Jan Oliva, The Cowlitz Tribal Foundation and the Mason E. Nolan Charitable Fund. The Columbian controls all content. For more information, visit columbian.com/cfj.