By Lorilyn Lirio
The Olympia City Council declared a continuing public health emergency, claiming that homelessness continues to present significant public health and safety issues for the entire community.
The ordinance, unanimously approved by the councilmembers on Tuesday, April 18, authorized city staff to take reasonable and necessary actions to mitigate the conditions that cause the public health emergency.
Rich Hoey, assistant city manager, asked the city council to extend the ordinance, initially adopted in July 2018, for an additional six months.
Hoey stating that the number of houseless persons and tents within the city dramatically increased since August 2018.
He enumerated concerns about public health and safety, sanitation, welfare, mental and physical health, and environmental degradation due to encampments.
“The above circumstances are and continue to present significant public health and safety issues for the entire community,” Rich said, “and necessitate further urgent actions to mitigate the conditions giving rise to this threat to public health and safety.”
“The above circumstances are and continue to present significant public health and safety issues for the entire community and necessitate further urgent actions to mitigate the conditions giving rise to this public health and safety threat,” the ordinance stated.
Hoey claimed the city made substantial investments and efforts in homeless response outreach, public health sanitation support, encampments in the community, emergency shelter housing, affordable housing, renter protections, and more. “All that aimed at helping us address the public health emergency in our community.”
This week the city’s homeless response team helped to coordinate an extensive cleanup of garbage and waste at the encampment at Sleater Kinney and I-5, Hoey told the council.
He added that the city worked with regional partners for emergency shelter housing for those residing on Sleater Kinney and Wheeler Avenue. He mentioned the former Days Inn, a 120-unit hotel in Lacey that is being converted into an enhanced shelter. “The work is underway now.”
The city will begin constructing a 50-unit tiny home village on Franz Anderson Road.
“Once those projects are ready in late spring and summer, we will be able to offer housing to those residing within those encampment areas,” the city assistant manager announced.
Hoey said the State of Washington Department of Transportation would close the freeway encampment areas when they transitioned people to housing.