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Wednesday, August 10, 2022

More Homeless Encampments To Be Removed

Washington state plans to remove homeless camps near freeways. Thurston County OK’d a $5 million agreement to get it done. People camped near highways in Thurston County will be removed and offered housing solutions under a new agreement between the county and Washington state. Last week, the Board of County Commissioners unanimously approved an interagency agreement with the state Department of Commerce as part of Gov. Jay Inslee’s Rights-of-Way Initiative. 

The three-year agreement provides $5 million for the county to spend on shelter beds for affected individuals and hotel stays for those fleeing domestic violence. The funds also will go toward targeted outreach to the camps and administrative costs. Thurston County declined to share a draft copy of the agreement with The Olympian, citing an objection from the state. Thomas said the agreement has yet to be finalized. The Olympian has submitted a public records request for the draft agreement.

Data has been reported that State officials plan to remove seven homeless encampments on Washington state Department of Transportation rights-of-way. Two out of the top three camps will be prioritized in June.

Not all information is forthcoming. The Commerce Department declined to share where or when the removals will take place. The state will announce removals with a 72 hours’ notice. Commerce, WSDOT and Washington State Patrol will move forward as local housing and outreach services are available for residents of an encampment and security is available from local law enforcement or WSP.

People are not just kicked out of the homeless camps. To remove encampments people living there must be offered shelter, services and storage for their belongings. Additionally,  the state must ensure the safety and security of people on site and work crews as they clean up the property.

At least $300,000 of the $5 million from the state will be set aside for outreach and hotel leasing efforts. County Manager Ramiro Chavez told the board. Outreach workers will go to the camps and offer to put people on a priority list for coordinated entry, an emergency housing system that connects people with programs and services based on vulnerability. Individuals can decline the invitation.

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