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Local governments could set up homeless “camps” in an emergency without following some state environmental rules, under a Senate-approved bill.
The Olympia City Council has approved new rules for permitted homeless camps, part of a larger effort to address the city’s homeless crisis.
Last week, while the mayor was discussing the results of the city’s latest homeless count, a city crew was out dealing with one of the thornier parts of the issue. City workers were dismantling a homeless camp on a steep embankment along the Spokane River. As the weather warms, such camps – informal, with makeshift shelter, sometimes with fire pit, often strewn with garbage – show up with more frequency on city land and in other public areas. The camp in question June 1 was tucked against a bank, roughly 200 feet down a steep slope across from homes in the 2700 block of West Summit Boulevard, on city parkland near a trail that follows the river. Three or four people seemed to be staying there, using carpet pieces and tarps to create shelters. They had leveled and cleared a small area, fenced somewhat by fallen logs, on a pitch that was difficult to reach from any direction.
For the past year, a campsite under a blue tarp in the wooded area behind Coeur d’Alene’s Target store has been home for Dawn Cooper. But on Monday morning, Cooper was packing up. She and her wife, Dawn Garvin, want to be off the site well in advance of police coming to clear the private property of trespassers. The two women were told they have to be gone by Wednesday.
They left quietly, saying goodbye to the patch of sidewalk under the freeway that was the only home they’ve known for the last couple of months. Residents of a homeless tent camp at Fourth Avenue and Division Street under Interstate 90 received an eviction notice Thursday. They were given 24 hours to clear out of the area. Friday, a group of about 40 campers who were there in the morning dwindled to a handful by 1:30 p.m.